Beyond the headlines: Why Covid in China spread so fast

From zero cases to potentially millions per day - here's how the situation in China changed so quickly after the government relaxed the rules

Since Covid-19 first emerged in Wuhan province in late 2019, China has pursued an aggressive containment policy. In October, 28 cities across the country were in some form of lockdown, affecting 207 million people.

By comparison, much of the world had lifted lockdowns, international travel resumed, and life was returning to normal. But Beijing maintained that its zero-Covid policy was the most effective tool.

People across China started to protest – calling on authorities to lift the restrictions.

Then the infections spread. In the first 20 days of December 2022, China may have had 250 million Covid infections alone – according to a leaked memo from top health officials. Reports from hospitals show overwhelmed wards, but officials in Beijing insist that everything is under control

In this week’s Beyond the Headlines, host James Haines-Young looks at how many cases there are in China, how the numbers exploded so fast and what this means for the rest of the world.

Updated: January 14, 2023, 11:38 AM