China’s largest city has ordered its schools to return to online teaching amid a spike in COVID-19 cases nearly three years after the pandemic began.
The Shanghai Education Bureau announced on Saturday that face-to-face classes would begin online next week after 2,286 symptomatic coronavirus cases were confirmed in mainland China on Friday.
Day care centers and kindergartens will also be closed on Monday, the authority said.
The surge in cases comes after China began lifting its COVID-19 restrictions earlier this month, which were among the strictest in the world. The move to abandon the “zero Covid” policy followed widespread public protests sparked by a deadly apartment fire in Urumqi.
Meanwhile, cases continue to rise, although the true extent remains unknown as China has run out of asymptomatic cases and abandoned its PCR testing system.
China has not recorded a death since December 4, but some say deaths are rising and could increase in the coming year. Undertakers in Beijing are reportedly busier than normal and are struggling to keep up with demand as more workers test positive for the coronavirus.
A model from the US-based Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluations predicts that the number of deaths in China could surpass one million by 2023.
Agency director Christopher Murray said cases would peak around April 1, when the death toll is expected to reach 322,000.
So far, China has reported just 5,235 deaths since the pandemic began, but Murray suggested the nation’s deaths have been underreported.
“China has reported hardly any deaths since the original Wuhan outbreak. So we looked to Hong Kong to get an idea of the death rate from infections,” Murray said on Friday.
By comparison, the UK has had more than 200,000 deaths and Italy has reported over 180,000 deaths. More than 1.1 million Americans have died from the virus.
With mail wires