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Even More Rumors About The End Of China's Zero COVID
Either there’s a whole lot of wishful thinking going on, or something is afoot in China regarding their Zero COVID protocols.
Zeng Guang, former chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention who has remained outspoken on China's COVID fight, said the conditions for China opening up were "accumulating", citing new vaccines and progress the country had made in antiviral drug research.
Asked by Citi chief China economist Yu Xiangrong if China would open up after its annual meeting of parliament that traditionally takes place in early March, he said many new policies would be introduced in the next five to six months, without indicating the basis for that information.
"The situation is changing now and China's 'dynamic zero' will also undergo major changes. Substantive changes will happen soon," he said, according to the recording of the session, which was titled "China's Exit Strategy from Zero-Covid".
And there is the strange assurance of “substantive changes” to Zero COVID offered up to placate a restive public in Zhengzhou in the wake of a poorly executed lockdown.
Rising anger has been driven by the tragic death of a toddler, and highly public problematic lockdowns in the Henan capital, Zhengzhou. Officials were left scrambling to control the narrative, amid swirling rumours of imminent policy shifts and a former government health expert saying on Friday that “substantive changes will happen soon”.
Chinese authorities have been trying to contain sporadic outbreaks across the country by using the same strict response measures that had been so successful early in the pandemic. But the more transmissible new variants have challenged those measures, resulting in sudden lockdowns and travel shutdowns causing major social and economic disruption.
Coming so soon after Bloomberg reported a possible end to the “circuit-breaker” policy against airlines who bring COVID-positive patients into China, the question is raised of whether Chinese officials are losing their ability to impose draconian lockdowns on the Chinese people.
If Zero COVID is about to end or be drastically altered, it appears Beijing will only be doing so reluctantly, as the reporting indicating changes to the Zero COVID protocols exist alongside reporting reaffirming the Zero COVID policy:
The country's strict COVID containment approach is still able to control the virus, despite the high transmissibility of COVID variants and asymptomatic carriers, an official from the China National Health Commission told a news conference.
China's zero-COVID policy includes lockdowns, quarantining and rigorous testing, aimed at stopping the spread of COVID.
"We should adhere to the principle of putting people and lives first, and the broader strategy of preventing imports from outside and internal rebounds," said health commission spokesperson Mi Feng.
Thus while it appears there may be a groundswell of broad public support for ending Zero COVID, it also appears Beijing intends to keep strict controls in place as much as possible. This also leaves local government officials between the proverbial rock and the hard place, as it falls to them to enforce Zero COVID on a population that is increasingly opposed to its enforcement.
Is China about to unwind Zero COVID? Or is Zero COVID about to unravel China?
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