COVID-19 cases in China have hit a daily record, prompting government officials to expand pandemic lockdowns days after authorities reported the country’s first coronavirus death in six months.

The number of new COVID cases rose by 31,444 within the previous 24 hours — the highest daily figure since the first coronavirus detections in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, the National Health Commission said Thursday.

Meanwhile, people in eight districts of Zhengzhou, a north-central Henan province city where factory workers recently clashed with police during a pay dispute, were instructed to stay home for five days beginning Thursday except to buy groceries or seek medical treatment. Daily mass testing was ordered for the city’s 6.6 million residents.

The COVID death reported this week brought China’s total to 5,232.

The country’s ruling Communist Party has been committed to its “zero-COVID” strategy aiming to eradicate the virus that has killed millions globally within the past three years.

China recorded its highest number of COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began Wednesday, as authorities stuck to their strict zero tolerance approach to containing the virus with lockdowns, mandatory testing, mask mandates, and quarantines as it struggles to contain outbreaks.

China’s borders remain largely shuttered amid the growing number of cases. At a press conference Thursday, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said the country would continue to improve various COVID protocols “according to the science-based and targeted principles” to ease the way for travel and exchanges with other countries.

Karu F. Daniels

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