Home » today » Health » Confusion, fear clouds China’s path out of “zero covid” policy – SWI swissinfo.ch

Confusion, fear clouds China’s path out of “zero covid” policy – SWI swissinfo.ch

Beijing residents line up at a COVID-19 testing center on Nov. 20, 2022. afp_ticker

This content was published on November 22, 2022 – 06:06 am


With megacities in lockdown, infection numbers surging and protests sporadic, China’s “zero covid” policy has reached a stalemate as authorities continue to try to contain the virus while keeping the economy alive.

Beijing on Tuesday recorded a new record of new covid cases amid an outbreak that is filling the city with restrictions such as closing schools and restaurants or imposing telecommuting.

China is experiencing multiple outbreaks of the coronavirus and added 28,000 new infections on Tuesday, near an all-time high since the pandemic began, health authorities said.

The main outbreaks were located in the province of Canton and in the city of Chongqing, with over 16,000 and 6,300 new infections.

In the capital, cases have skyrocketed in recent days, going from 621 on Sunday to 1,438 on Tuesday, a record for the city.

The second world economy maintains its zero covid policy that gave such good results at the beginning of the pandemic, with sudden confinements, massive screenings and long quarantines.

But recent outbreaks are testing the limits of this strategy and the authorities are hesitant to implement lockdowns such as the one implemented in April for two months in Shanghai, which has scuttled the economy and the international image of the financial centre.

Three Beijing elderly people with previous illnesses died of Covid over the weekend, authorities said, the first pandemic deaths in China since May.

Although the capital has avoided a complete lockdown, its authorities have quarantined many buildings and require a negative coronavirus test within the last 24 hours to enter most public places.

Over the weekend, they asked residents to stay home and avoid traveling between districts.

Tourist attractions, gyms and parks have been closed and events with large crowds such as concerts have been cancelled.

– Optimize your economic impact –

China announced on November 11 a relaxation of some anti-covid measures to “optimize” the economic and social impact of health measures, such as the reduction of the mandatory quarantine for travelers arriving from abroad.

Some cities canceled massive covid tests last week, though some later reinstated them, citing difficulties controlling transmission of the omicron variant.

ShijiazHuang (north) city, which had canceled a mass test, began a partial lockdown on Monday, and Guangdong (south) city shut down some of its districts on the same day.

Public anger over the seemingly arbitrary restrictions and sudden disruptions has erupted in numerous protests in recent months, including in southern China’s Guangzhou this month, as hundreds of residents took to the streets.

“Most officials in China know that the policy as it stands is meaningless, but no one can stop applying it as it is Xi’s policy and it must be maintained,” Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS Institute, told AFP. . .

Alfred Wu, an associate professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore, explained that there was growing tension between the goals of the central government and those of local officials.

“The anger actually comes from the residents and also from local public officials,” whose resources and time are overwhelmingly spent on “zero covid” measures, Wu told AFP.

For Huang, a health expert at the Council on International Relations – an American think tank -, a new covid zero year would cause “an upheaval in the Chinese economy and could bring social tensions to a breaking point, which would threaten the stability of the regime and could even lead to a crisis of legitimacy”.

But conversely, opening the country too quickly is also risky, as China could “face a viral wave accompanied by mass mortality, which would quickly overwhelm its fragile health system,” he warns.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.