China fine-tunes “Zero Corona” as Omicron surges and economy suffers

When the coronavirus first struck all over China in early 2020, national leader Xi Jinping declared a “people’s war” against the epidemic and launched an unbanned strategy to eliminate the infection. ..

Now, in the third year of the pandemic, in the face of the rise of a rapidly prevailing variant of stealth, Mr. Xi not only orders authorities to subdue the outbreak, but also limits the associated financial distress. I’m trying to tweak the playbook.

Beijing has said it needs to be more accurate in its scope, as China has been working on the country’s largest outbreak since the pandemic in Wuhan more than two years ago. Still extreme use, such as using home test kits or sending people to a central isolated facility rather than a hospital.

But in China, where efforts to eradicate the virus have been spared, these show remarkable changes. Last week, for the first time, Mr. Xi urged authorities to reduce the impact of the country’s Covid response on people’s lives.

Little adjustment is needed. So far, the number of cases has been relatively low, with only two deaths reported in recent waves, but many of the more than 32,000 cases reported in 20 states in recent weeks have been transmitted by Omicron. Highly sexual BA.2 subvariant.

Mushroom hunting that occurs nationwide can quickly overwhelm the medical system as soon as everyone who tests positive is sent to the hospital, as was needed until recently. Every day, millions of people check the quarantined inhabitants. Long-term, unpredictable lockdowns can wipe out the already very thin profits of many factories or lead to the dismissal of service workers.

In a statement to top officials last week, Xi should aim for “maximum effect” at “minimum cost” in controlling the virus, reflecting concerns about slowing economic growth. Said there is. On Friday, Chinese health officials told reporters that more targeted efforts would not ease policy.

Dali Yang, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago, has shown that Xi is “willing to adapt and reduce economic turmoil,” but does not say the government has relinquished control.

Mr Yang said the ruling Communist Party’s zero-tolerance approach would cost officials a lot if it happened under surveillance, citing the recent dismissal of senior officials in the Jilin and Changchun districts. More than 20 employees have been dismissed in recent weeks for failing to respond to the outbreak.

For many in China, everyday life has been confused since the latest wave began. Currently, tens of millions are somehow blocked. Factories have suspended work, trucks have been delayed, and the already worn supply chain is groaning. Offices and schools in the major metropolitan areas of Shenzhen and Shanghai were closed, and residents were ordered to stay home, resulting in a halt in life.

In Shanghai, authorities avoided imposing a city-wide blockade by using contact tracing instead to contain what is considered a high-risk neighborhood, but still spicy in Shanghai’s upscale Xuhui district. Revenues from businesses such as hot pot restaurants are limited. ..

Restaurant owner Chang Liang said his profits have plummeted by more than 80 percent since the blockade began. He was worried about his invoice.

“We’re still open, but no one is coming,” Zhang said.

Tang Min, a 37-year-old gas station worker in a town in Jilin, was among the inhabitants ordered to stay home. A few days later she ran out of her prescription. The medicine she takes to treat depression.

She called the local government hotline and volunteers in the neighborhood eventually brought her more medicine just before she was gone.

“When I don’t take medicine, I feel like I don’t have much to live,” Tang said in a telephone interview.

China’s strict antivirus measures are still widely supported, and some want to avoid the devastation that Covid has brought to hospitals and communities around the world. However, in recent weeks there have been signs that the patience of the people has diminished.

When Zhang Wenhong, a prominent infectious disease expert in Shanghai, suggested last summer that China should learn to live with the virus, he was attacked online as a foreign puppet. Finally, some jokes that the government should be “flat.” This is a reference to a term that is popular among Chinese millennials for countering social pressure with less action.

“People seem to be increasingly fed up with these excessive anti-Covid measures,” said Yanzhong Huang, director of the Global Health Research Center at Seton Hall University.

However, the outbreak in Hong Kong, where Gurney’s patients were parked outside the hospital and body bags were piled up in the ward, shocked many on the mainland. Charts showing high Covid mortality in Hong Kong, where many older people are not vaccinated, are bouncing around China’s social media.

The sacrifice to the elderly in Hong Kong has spurred Chinese officials to double their efforts to boost vaccination among vulnerable groups in the country. Over 87% of China’s population is fully vaccinated. Zeng Yixin, deputy minister of the National Health Commission, said on Friday that he fired and less than 20 percent received boosters.

Authorities have announced plans to send vaccination trucks to inoculate many older Chinese living in hard-to-reach rural areas. Misleading information about vaccines and lack of urgency due to the relatively small number of cases exacerbate the problem.

Li Man, a 69-year-old housewife living in Beijing, postponed vaccination for months, believing that she was at low risk of getting the virus because she rarely went out. She got a jab a few months ago, but in her phone interview she said she still feels she doesn’t need it.

“The situation in China is much better than in the United States and other Western countries,” Lee said.

Lee’s confidence shows the high stakes the government faces as it seeks to coordinate its response. Beijing advertises the low number of deaths from the virus in China as a sign of the superiority of China’s top-down centralized system. Containing the latest surge can undermine the legitimacy of the party.

Tracking the chain of infections is becoming increasingly difficult with each new variant. Last month, a village near Shenzhen was closed for nearly three weeks. After that, the community was wiped out and the blockade was lifted. However, within a few days the incident began to occur. Appeared and the village was closed again.

Jiao Yahui, an official of the National Health Commission of China, said on Friday that residents are responsible for reporting positive results to local governments in permitting the use of home-based test kits. They couldn’t do that, but she didn’t specify what the outcome would be.

Jin Dong-yang, a virologist at the University of Hong Kong, said it was only a matter of time before the next outbreak, even if authorities succeeded in quelling all infections with the current wave. Therefore, China said it was in urgent need. Come up with a roadmap to learn how to live with the virus.

“That’s the only option. Now it’s almost impossible to go back to zero,” Jin said.

Keith Bradshire Report that contributed. Li You Contributed to the research.

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