China Covid: Xi's face-saving exit from his signature policy
Covid-19 • 1670244336 13
If you want to know what the government's Covid plan is in China, look at what it does rather than what it says.
Take Beijing for example.
There has not been a significant drop in infections, yet public transport now no longer requires a PCR test result, bars and restaurants are slowly re-opening, and in some cases people are being allowed to isolate at home after catching Covid instead of going into centralised quarantine facilities.
So when you examine what is happening here right now, the trajectory seems clear - the government appears to have quietly dumped zero Covid as a goal.
This does not mean that all Covid-related restrictions have ended. It also does not mean some restrictions won't be around in, say, half a year.
But the stated goal of reducing each outbreak to zero new infections… gone.
The new plan appears to be to slow the spread of the virus, hopefully enabling the health system to cope, rather than trying crush the disease.
This may involve monitoring the virus as it spreads in an attempt to manage the flow of infections, serious illness and deaths.
At times it may also mean the reimposition of certain measures, but cities will not have to record zero cases to remain open.
Beijing is not alone in removing some measures - and they vary widely by region.
In south-eastern Zhejiang province for example, there is to be no more regular testing apart from for people working certain specific jobs.
Shandong province in the east will no longer require checks to buy cough medicine or drive on a highway; central Henan Province will no longer require PCR tests to enter housing communities.
Similar easing is also happening in the massive cities of Shanghai, Wuhan, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Chengdu.
Urumqi, capital of western Xinjiang region, has re-opened supermarkets, hotels, cinemas and gyms. Public transport has resumed in Tibet.
Just a few weeks ago, the Chinese government was urging the population to stay the course with the zero-Covid approach.
Despite overwhelming evidence that China's epidemic control measures were hammering the economy, smashing people's livelihoods, Xi Jinping stood up at the Great Hall of the People during the recent Communist
Party Congress and re-stated that there would be no swerving from his signature policy.
Then came the protests.
A tower block fire in Urumqi killed 10 people, triggering a wave of public fury.
On social media, the deaths were blamed on Covid restrictions, which are said to have hampered the access of fire crews and blocked escape routes for residents. Beijing denies this and the BBC has not been able to verify the claims, but that the fire led to demonstrations across the country is not in dispute.
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