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From one extreme to the other: A week ago, millions of people were still locked in their homes because somewhere in their neighborhoods a suspected covid case might exist. Now the opening cannot happen fast enough. China plans to take a crash course in living with the virus.
The state media outdo each other in praising the new policy, ignoring the fact that just last week they propagated zero-Covid strategy as the only true way forward. It is downright staggering how brazenly state news agency Xinhua declares the fight against the pandemic to be over and sells China’s new strategy as a unique approach and great success. Not a word about the utterly excessive lockdowns in Shanghai last spring, which paralyzed large parts of the economy. Nor a word about the apartment building fire in October in Urumqi, where people burned to death in their homes because of the Covid lockdowns. As if Xi Jinping’s personally decreed zero-Covid had never existed.
Now regulations are being lifted so crudely that health experts already sound the alarm. Unlike in the rest of the world, where high vaccination rates and previous infections have led to a basic level of immunity, China still lacks it. Experts predict millions of deaths in the coming months if the virus sweeps the country too quickly. Many emergency rooms in Beijing and other cities are already overcrowded before the wave even starts to build up, says Fabian Kretschmer. Curiously, this is not reflected in the official numbers. In the statistics, the number of new infections has been declining for days.
Building trust – this seems to be something that Xi Jinping continues to be unfamiliar with.
The Covid wave rolls
The end of zero-Covid in Beijing (China.Table reported) is clearly noticeable in the cityscape: All stores have reopened, and the lockdown barriers have practically all vanished. Meanwhile, signs already point to a sharp rise in infection numbers – just as experts feared after the contact restrictions were lifted.
At noon, the queue in front of the Covid clinic of Beijing’s Chaoyang Hospital already reaches to the next street corner: Wrapped in down jackets and face masks, dozens of people are waiting to be let in. And a crowd has also formed outside the pharmacy across the street. Most of them, however, will have to go back home disappointed: self-tests and fever-reducing medication are sold out.
Living with the virus has to be learned
After more than two and a half years of close monitoring and contact prevention, the country is now trying to “live with the virus”. Whereas the government had previously kept the risk of infection to a minimum with mandatory quarantine, mass testing and lockdowns, every citizen of the country is now largely responsible for their own health.