Why China suddenly stopped zero Covid policy

For nearly three years, Chinese diplomats posted abroad have declared that the Covid-19 epidemic has been perfectly contained in their country thanks to strictly organized health vigilance under the name of “zero Covid policy”. This proud claim has now lost all purpose.

China’s leaders suddenly decided on December 7 to lift health restrictions and numerous anti-Covid controls that have disrupted people’s lives. There was no real explanation for this turnaround in Beijing, all the more surprising given that Covid-19 cases are currently on the rise in China, mostly in the form of Omicron, a sub-variant of BF.7.

On December 26, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-affiliated national health commission simply clarified in a press release that from now on, the official term for Covid-19 is no longer “novel coronavirus pneumonia” but “novel coronavirus infection.” It seems that the severity of the pandemic in China is considered to be decreasing.

As a result, health restrictions disappear. The same press release indicates that people infected with the virus will no longer be quarantined and no further attempts will be made to identify their contacts. On the other hand, there will be no updating of regions at high risk in terms of Covid-19 every month, as has been the case for three years now. In the end it is stated that “Disease control measures targeting incoming travelers and imported goods will be lifted”.

The end of restrictions, the answer to China’s fury?

All this was accompanied by the speech of President Xi Jinping on December 31 in China “Fight against Covid-19 [était] it is entering a new phase that still requires constant work. If each of us perseveres in our efforts, there is hope. Let’s redouble our efforts, because perseverance and solidarity will lead us to victory.”

The sudden new behavior in Beijing is perhaps, above all, a response to the frustration created by the strict discipline imposed by the “zero Covid policy”. Demonstrations in late November and early December allowed citizens to express genuine frustration across China. In Shanghai, Beijing or Canton, but also in Wuhan, Xi’an, Chengdu and even the Tibetan city of Lhasa, residents have marched to demand an end to systematic and generalized inspections.

The police followed the march of the demonstrators without any intervention. Even when they chanted hostile slogans against Xi Jinping, the number one member of the Communist Party at the beginning of all the control imposed in China.

The CCP always pays close attention to such things “mass movements”, according to official terminology. The complete secrecy of the discussions at the top of the party makes it impossible to know whether there was a conflict with those in Beijing in early December who wanted to maintain maximum control over their health. he wanted to cancel them. But if there was a dispute, the winner was the second.

Extremely tense situation

Other considerations may explain this decision to discontinue population health surveillance. The leaders of China’s major companies could not help but worry about the ongoing tight control over the population, which is costing the country’s economy the equivalent of $384 billion (€360 billion).

First of all, it seems that for nearly three months before the lifting of the zero Covid policy, China is facing an increase in pollution that is difficult to control. As of December 24, 4,128 new cases of Covid-19 were officially recorded, but many elements indicate that this number is significantly lower.

According to “Nikkei Asia” newspaper,
“More than 5,000 people die from Covid-19
Every day in China.

Hong Kong’s HK01 website specifically claims to have access to the minutes of a national health commission meeting that says 18% of China’s population, or 248 million people, will be infected.er and December 20, 2022. Nikkei Asia newspaper estimates that “Over 5,000 people die from Covid-19 every day in China”.

On December 23, a health official in Qingdao (Shandong province), in turn, wrote in a daily municipal bulletin in this major port on the China Sea, “Between 490,000 and 530,000″ new Covid cases. The following day, the article was amended to remove these figures. But Chinese newspapers had already received information when only 31 new cases were officially reported in the entire province. A few days later, in Zhejiang, it also appeared that the milestone of one million new daily cases had already been passed.

In a number of other cities, advertisements in local newspapers show that the situation is particularly tense. City Hall in Hangzhou (Zhejiang Province) asks thus “Volunteers to help municipal emergency center in response to growing demand”.

A funeral home in Canton (Guangdong Province) reports that it will not be able to perform burials for two weeks “Due to excessive pressure”: It is clear that Chinese funeral homes can no longer handle the influx of the dead. While there are patients, many regions report shortages of fever and pain medications as well as antigen test kits in pharmacies..

More numbers, more worries?

Seeing such a situation looming, the Chinese government and its medical experts seem to have concluded that efforts to contain and reduce the exponential number of Covid-19 cases (37 million) are no longer feasible. to the number currently listed). And large numbers of patients are crowding into overcrowded hospitals.

The National Health Commission also announced this on December 25 “Will no longer publish daily pandemic newsletter”after that just add this “relevant information for research reference and utility”. This is in stark contrast to calls from international organizations demanding detailed information from China on the results of the Omicron BF.7 sub-variant.

The official Chinese claims of a few months ago are definitely far-fetched. Beijing nevertheless presented its handling of Covid-19 before the UN General Assembly in New York in September. “the ultimate test of a country’s ability to govern”, That China has a head start on the rest of the world.

Trips, trips

Perhaps the goal today is to achieve a level of collective immunity comparable to that of certain Western countries through pollution. But there are a priori fundamental differences between China and the West: on the one hand, the efficacy of Chinese vaccines appears to be limited; on the other hand, only 40% of the country’s population is vaccinated. And this percentage is dominated by the active population, while the elderly are clearly in the minority.

The announcement of the relaxation of health measures against Covid-19, in any case, caused immediate reactions in China. A section of the public wonders – without going too far – if the government isn’t trying to get rid of the elderly who are a burden on China’s slowing economy. But above all, many plan to take advantage of the return of travel.

Many Chinese are now booking air travel to the West as the mandatory quarantine for those entering the country will be lifted on January 8. For three years rotations between Roissy and China have been limited to ten a week; should be more soon. In the other direction, when a passenger tested positive for Covid on a flight landing in China, the airline carrying him was banned from re-entering the country for a variable period of time. What will happen in such a situation has not yet been determined.

On the other hand, a widely considered risk in Western capitals is that these travelers from China carry the disease or its new variants. Director of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus considers these concerns “understanding” Given the lack of information provided by Beijing.

Mandatory testing and monitoring of subvariants

On December 26, tests carried out at the Milan airport showed that almost half of the passengers from China were infected with SARS-CoV-2. Italy has become the first European country to impose mandatory health checks on travelers from China. The United States, Canada, and Australia also announced in the following days that travelers should be tested less than forty-eight hours before departure. The same decision was made by Japan and South Korea. Morocco went further, closing its borders to anyone from China, “regardless of nationality”.

Tuesday, January 3, Mao Ning, one
Chinese ministry spokesman
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said
China could buy it

The European Union, for its part, faces certain difficulties in defining a common position. On December 30, Germany decided to be content with establishing itself “Control System” New options that may come from China. And during a meeting in Brussels, Austria’s health minister was particularly hostile to creating excessive barriers to the return of Chinese tourists.

On the other hand, after Italy, therefore, Spain, France decided to 1er January – to carry out random tests on passengers on flights directly to or from China. If some get dirty, so will they “isolation”. The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control took such a measure “unfounded” because, unlike the Chinese, Europeans are sufficiently immunized and vaccinated.

China condemns “unacceptable practices”.

All of these very different reactions to the possibility of the BF.7 sub-variant being deployed outside of China led Beijing to react. On January 3, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning said that the country “countermeasures”. According to him, the decisions taken by several states were not like that “no scientific basis and some experiments are unacceptable”. These words of the government of French Prime Minister Elizabeth Bornen “In his role in protecting the French”.

With the brutality of the takeover, the Chinese authorities caused great confusion around the world and aggravated China’s image, which has been tarnished by a political regime that has tightly controlled the country while seizing all of China’s territory. global economy. This adds to the open distrust of his health policy and his recent radical changes.

A real cooperation of the Beijing authorities with the West in the fields of medicine and healthcare, as well as in the behavior to be adopted in the face of Covid-19, would clearly be necessary. But the Chinese regime does not seem ready to go in this direction.

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