China sticks to infamous zero-Covid policy amid 'coup' rumours
Beijing, Sep 26: Dissent against the Chinese government's 'zero-COVID' policy has been growing in recent days with the rising number of demonstrations and calls from a Beijing-based think-tank for changes to the policy of targeted lockdowns and ongoing compulsory mass testing, media reports have said. The cities which have been vulnerable to such protests are Shanghai, Shandong, Beijing, Hong Kong, and Anhui. Under this policy, cities are directed to impose stringent lockdowns and follow strict measures of social isolation even if only a small number of cases are reported.
Despite the iron-clad authoritarian rule of the Communist Party of China led by President Xi Jinping, the Chinese government has been unable to contain the outbreaks. The country in the past, including even recently, saw a wave of anger about unrelenting 'zero-COVID' policy as a bus carrying people to a quarantine centre overturned, killing 27. The vehicle was transferring 47 people who had tested negative for COVID-19-but live in the same building as an infected person-to a centralized quarantine facility. There were also speculations on the internet that Xi was said to be missing from the public eye for sometime and footage allegedly of military vehicles moving towards the capital Beijing. However, there is neither any official comment on these guesses nor any confirmed report on military movement towards the capital.
With China only weeks away from its 20th National Congress, during which Xi, who had returned from SCO summit, is set to pursue an unprecedented third term, rumors are rife that may be the Chinese premier has been put under quarantine following the country's strict 'zero-COVID' policy. Under the policy, every individual who enters China from abroad must undergo quarantine. However, there has been no official word from Beijing.
There were also reports of lack of food for people in lockdowns, deaths due to non-availability of medical facilities for non-COVID patients, and misuse of power by public authorities as Chinese people expressed their frustration over the unending and inflexible 'zero-COVID' policy.
Experts said this policy was successful at the beginning of the pandemic. However, as the pandemic has entered into its third year with more understanding about the virus and vaccine availability, the policy has lost its effectiveness. It has now become a drag on people's lives and the economy.
Many experts also said that with the crucial political season in China expected to last till March 2023, any kind of loosening in the country's 'zero-COVID' strategy should not be expected before the second half of 2023. Authorities, however, need to increase vaccination among the elderly. They should make the people aware of the repercussions of such a loosening in the policy which may cause a spike in the COVID cases causing unbearable pressure on public health infrastructure.
While the coronavirus with its variants is still prevalent in most parts of the world, China continues its stringent dynamic 'zero COVID' policy with limited travel links with the outside world and periodic lockdowns of its cities to curb the virus.