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China COVID death toll rises as Beijing warns of 'grim' COVID situation

A worker in a protective suit keeps watch outside a cordoned-off entrance following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Shanghai, China March 30, 2022. (Photo by Reuters)

China's capital city of Beijing has warned of a "grim" situation as COVID-19 infections rise while main business hub Shanghai reports more deaths related to the pandemic amid a weeks-long lockdown.

Official data from the National Health Commission showed Shanghai's highest daily death toll since lockdown started, reporting 39 more deaths on Sunday, which brought its total toll to 87.

Since the start of April, Shanghai has been almost entirely locked down, snarling supply chains, with many residents confined to their homes for even longer time as the city became the epicenter of the pandemic.

More than 400,000 new infections have been reported in Shanghai since March while nationwide records logged nearly 22,000 new local virus cases.

Meanwhile, Chinese health official Pang Xinghuo said COVID seems to be "spreading invisibly" within Beijing for a week now, affecting "schools, tour groups and many families".

Beijing's Municipal Party Committee member, Tian Wei, said, "The risk of continued and hidden transmission is high, and the situation is grim."

"The whole city of Beijing must act immediately," she added.

To combat the disease, China has imposed measures including hard lockdowns, mass testing and lengthy quarantines.

These measures have helped Chinese officials successfully reduce the number of COVID fatalities. However, the lockdowns have been detrimental to supply chains, forcing trade to stop.

According to analysts, China's lockdowns and, consequently, the shutdown of factories and the global shipping industry have left world manufacturers and retailers of commodities susceptible to a wave of shortages, resulting in rising prices.

With hundreds of cargo ships this week in line to enter Shanghai’s container hub, the world’s largest, congestion at major Chinese ports has doubled in the last month, causing rapidly rising knock-on delays of products and commodities worldwide.

Exports from Shanghai to Europe this week stood at 70 percent below the level at this time last year.

Chinese officials have suggested drawing up a "white list" of key industries and companies to resume work regularly so production can continue, with more than 600 firms identified for early work resumption in Shanghai.

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