By JOE McDONALD
BEIJING (AP) — The Chinese government says more than 253,000 coronavirus cases have been found in the past three weeks and the daily average is rising. That adds to pressure on officials who are trying to reduce economic damage by easing controls that confine millions of people to their homes. The ruling Communist Party is promising to reduce disruptions from its “zero-COVID” strategy by making controls more flexible. But the latest wave of outbreaks is challenging that. Major cities including Beijing have closed off populous districts, shut stores and offices and ordered factories to isolate their workforces from outside contact. China’s infection numbers are relatively low, but the ruling party is trying to isolate every case.