China doubles down on zero Covid pledge as public frustration grows
China has reaffirmed its unwavering commitment to its long-standing zero-Covid policy despite growing public frustration that strict measures worth the life they intend to protect.
Rumors of an exit from the costly strategy lifted Chinese stocks last week, but at a news conference on Saturday, Chinese health officials vowed to continue the country’s zero-tolerance approach, which aims to stamp out Covid cases as soon as they break out.
The relentless campaign has kept infections and deaths low at great economic and social cost, as rapidly spreading new variants make it nearly impossible to contain the virus.
“Practice has proven that our epidemic prevention and control policies and a number of strategic measures are completely correct and the most economical and effective,” disease control official Hu Xiang said when asked if China would adjust its Covid policy anytime soon. the term
“We must stick to the principle of putting people and life first, as well as the broader strategy of preventing foreign imports and internal uprisings,” Hu said.
The announcement dealt a heavy blow to hopes of an easing of restrictions fueled by unverified rumors on social media that China was forming a high-level committee to stay away from zero Covid. Share prices of Chinese companies listed in mainland China, Hong Kong and the US rose last week as investors were eager to take advantage of any speculation for possible easing.
The pledge to remain committed to zero Covid has also been a major disappointment to the Chinese public, many of whom have grown increasingly weary of non-stop mass testing, centralized quarantine and strict lockdowns that sometimes last for months.
It has the disappointment and indignation of society has only increased in recent weeksnamed after Supreme Leader Xi Jinping began his third normative term is in power call confirmation about its zero Covid policy.
Tragic incidents believed to be linked to the policy have gained momentum online as people question why it has to continue.
A 55-year-old woman fell to her death from the 12th floor of a closed apartment complex in Hohhot, capital of the northern region of Inner Mongolia, on Friday. The apartment was closed in late October after two incidents in which the entrance to its building was fenced off with high barricades.
In a widely shared audio message, the woman’s daughter was heard hitting the barricade and crying desperately for help, begging community workers to open the barrier so she could rush to her mother.
“Open the gate! Open the gate. I’m begging you, please, she was heard screaming.
In another video, the daughter is seen kneeling and crying next to her mother, who was lying motionless on the ground, still wearing a face mask.
The desperate scenes sparked a nationwide outcry, with an associated hashtag garnering half a billion views on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform. A local police report said the woman, who lived with her 29-year-old daughter, suffered from anxiety disorders.
The woman’s death added to the growing list of lives lost during the country’s brutal lockdowns. Another tragedy that caused nationwide outrage. A 3-year-old boy died Gas poisoning broke out in a locked compound in the northwestern city of Lanzhou on Wednesday after Covid restrictions delayed rescue efforts.
Experts have warned that China could be hit by a new wave of infections and a new cycle of government-imposed lockdowns as winter approaches.
China reported 5,496 local infections on Sunday, a six-month high, according to official figures.
More than a third of those infections were reported in the southern metropolis of Guangzhou. The city of 19 million is grappling with its worst outbreak since the epidemic began, with large areas of Haizhou County under lockdown.
At a news conference Sunday, officials accused some residents of spreading the virus by defying lockdown rules and lifting restrictions on going out to get daily supplies.
Even in places not under extended lockdowns, permanent Covid-testing mandates and strict travel restrictions have fueled growing discontent.
Authorities in Beijing have tightened requirements to enter the Chinese capital, home to most of China’s top leaders. The restrictions were tightened ahead of the Communist Party Congress in October and have not been eased since.
Residents and business travelers have complained about a pop-up on their Beijing Health app preventing them from returning to the capital despite their negative Covid test results.
In a telling sign of the extent of public discontent, among those speaking out against excessive restrictions were members of the political elite and nationalist influencers. Tao Xiliang, the daughter of former Communist Party Supreme Politburo Standing Committee member Tao Xiliang, criticized Beijing’s travel restrictions after she was banned from returning home from a trip to the eastern province of Zhejiang in a pop-up.
“I have long been a cold-blooded person, but this time I panicked because for the first time I felt the sense of loss and helplessness of not being able to return to my own home,” the 81-year-old wrote. post-delete social media article.
The difficulties of returning to Beijing were too much even for Zhou Xiaoping, a fiercely nationalistic, anti-American blogger who was singled out by Xi for praise at a 2014 arts and literature conference. In a series of Weibo posts, he openly questioned. far-reaching travel restrictions and criticized propaganda efforts exaggerating the number of Covid deaths abroad.
“What’s the point of doing that?” he wrote in a post that was later removed. “The costs of epidemic prevention are not only economic costs, there are also costs to our livelihoods and lives. Since you have (sworn) to put the people first, you must seek truths from facts.”
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