China insists on “zero-COVID,” hurting people and businesses

China insists on “zero-COVID,” hurting people and businesses

Beijing — Last week, rumors that China would relax its tight “zero-COVID” policy boosted Chinese stock markets and sparked some optimism that life in the nation might return to something approximating normal. Monday morning, though, investors were once more confronted with the possibility that China’s massive economic engine could remain in a lower gear for weeks.

During a news conference on Saturday, senior officials dashed hopes for a lifting of the draconian measures, reaffirming China’s commitment to the rigorous lockdowns, mandatory quarantines and testing, and company closures Beijing has used for years to contain coronavirus epidemics.

National Health Commission representative Hu Xiang described China’s COVID-19 containment measures as “absolutely accurate” and “the most cost-effective and cheap”

China imposes a new set of COVID restrictions and regulations at 2:59

However, the policy does not appear to be very effective.

Human agony

Since late June, China has not experienced a genuine zero-COVID day — a day without a single documented home illness. Authorities reported 5,436 cases in China on Monday, a relatively small number compared to other large countries but a six-month high for the country.

A district that is home to over 1.7 million people in the southern metropolis of Guangzhou is under lockdown after 1,935 instances were recorded there, whereas in some sections of Beijing, mass testing has been requested due to only dozens of new cases.

In Shanghai, China, on November 7, 2022, a worker wearing protective gear guards the entrance to a neighborhood under lockdown due to the COVID-19 virus. Qilai Shen/Bloomberg/Getty

On Friday, a 55-year-old lady with an anxiety illness from Inner Mongolia jumped to her death from her flat, which was under lockdown after just two cases were detected in the building.

A three-year-old kid in the adjacent province of Gansu died of carbon monoxide poisoning only three days prior. His father blamed the rigorous virus control procedures for his son’s death, as they prevented his family from providing him with emergency medical care.

Economic pain

The government’s economic justification for the zero-COVID policy has also been challenged by the high cost incurred by enterprises.

Foxconn, a Taiwanese electronics manufacturing company that produces 70% of Apple’s popular iPhone devices, has a cluster of COVID-19 instances among its nearly 200,000 employees in the Zhengzhou area of central China. The corporation initially prohibited eating in college cafeterias to prevent crowds and reduce the spread of the illness, but this measure failed.

Videos of plant employees, fearful of contracting COVID, fleeing the large facility by strolling down roads became viral on the Chinese equivalent of TikTok, Douyin. Foxconn has offered staff financial bonuses in an effort to retain them, but Reuters reports that production of new iPhones could decline by as much as 30 percent this month, in the important run-up to Christmas.

Apple has officially admitted that it anticipates decreased shipments of certain premium iPhone 14 models due in part to the disruption at the Zhengzhou facility.

Security officers maintain order at Shanghai Disney Resort on October 31, 2022 in Shanghai, China, during a COVID-19 shutdown.

The Shanghai Disneyland resort quickly locked its gates last week, locking tourists inside while police gave COVID tests to each of them, after it was discovered that a single confirmed case had visited the park days earlier.

China’s exports and imports unexpectedly decreased in October for the first time since the early days of the epidemic, according to data released on Monday.

Only 55% of the companies questioned by the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai described themselves as hopeful for the next five years, according to a survey.

Xi Jinping not budging

People and groups from outside China have questioned Beijing’s rigorous COVID policy, but in a country with restricted freedom of expression, home voices opposing the policies are quickly hushed and are rarely heard beyond the anonymity provided by the internet.

One prominent and rare exception to this self-censorship was the lone demonstrator known as “Bridge Man.” A guy draped a giant sign over a bridge in Beijing’s downtown last month, just prior to the Communist Party’s National Congress “We’re not interested in COVID tests; we want food. We do not desire lockdowns; we seek liberty.”

The authorities swiftly arrived, removed the man’s banner, and arrested him. He has not been heard from since.

04:56 Address by Xi Jinping at the Chinese Communist Party Congress

President Xi Jinping has provided no hint whatsoever that his famous zero-COVID policy will be relaxed in the near future, despite the fact that the demonstration garnered internet support from dissatisfied Chinese and foreign residents.

 

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