The city of Harbin, China has started offering 10,000 yuan ($2,198) to anyone who proactively comes forward to report their own COVID-19 symptoms or a positive test, according to the South China Morning Post and Chinese state media.
The payments are being offered in an effort to identify COVID-19 before it spreads uncontrolled in the city, according to Chinese state media outlet China Daily. Harbin, a city of 5.2 million people about 1,207 km northeast of Beijing, reported two new positive cases of the disease on Tuesday.
China is one of the only countries left on the planet still pursuing what’s called covid-zero, a strategy of completely eliminating covid-19 rather than merely suppressing spread of the disease. COVID-19 treatment is free in China, which means the $2,198 being offered in Harbin is simply an incentive to get people to report their illness, according to the South China Morning Post.
China reported 94 new cases of COVID-19 and no new deaths on Tuesday, according to the country’s National Health Commission. But just 60 of those cases were from community transmission, while 34 were from people returning to the country. China’s quarantine system means that people are tested while entering the country and must self-isolate before entering the wider community.
Many experts wonder how long China will be able to keep COVID-19 to such low levels, but it’s likely restrictions may relax only after the Olympics are held in Beijing this coming February. China has yet to identify any cases of the new omicron variant, which early reports suggest could be more infectious than delta, which is currently the dominant strain in most of the world.
The U.S. is still struggling with high case numbers and an escalating number of hospitalizations, largely among the unvaccinated. The U.S. reported 116,690 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and 1,798 deaths. There are currently 61,222 being treated in the hospital with COVID-19, up 1,642 from the day before, with 14,643 Americans in the ICU with the disease, up 238 from the day before, according to BNO News.