Cheers in China as Covid measures ease – ‘We’ve made it, we’ll be free’


For nearly three years, China has managed Covid like a disease like bubonic plague and cholera, and as cases spread earlier this year, entire communities went into lockdown

China announced today the most sweeping changes to the strict anti-Covid regime since the pandemic began three years ago, relaxing rules that limited the spread of the virus but sparked protests and hit the world’s second-largest economy.

The relaxation of the rules, which includes the possibility of those who become infected and show mild symptoms to remain in home quarantine and scrapping tests for those traveling within the country, is the clearest sign yet that Beijing is moving away from its ‘zero COVID’ policy to let citizens live with the disease.

However, health officials continue to warn that they will continue to monitor trends in deaths, in case a return to normal is deemed necessary. stricter measures.

Many of the changes announced by the National Health Commission (NHC) reflect measures already taken in many cities and regions in recent days, after protests against the Covid controls, which was the biggest public outcry since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2012.

Citizens they reacted with enthusiasm in the prospect of a change that may gradually lead China back into the world three years after the virus was first identified in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.

Today’s announcement was the most viewed topic on the Chinese platform Weibo, with many hoping for a normal day-to-day life after the policies that have psychologically affected tens of millions of people.

“It’s time for lives to return to normal and for China to return to the world,” wrote a Weibo user.

For nearly three years, China has managed Covid like a disease like bubonic plague and cholera, and as outbreaks spread earlier this year, entire communities went into lockdown, sometimes for months.

Dozens of people visited the Weibo account of Li Wenliang, a doctor in Wuhan who died after sounding the alarm to warn about COVID-19.

“Doc, we made it, we’ll be free,” wrote one user.

“Daylight is here,” wrote another.

Protests and fear

The policy changes were announced after Xi, who credits China’s relentless fight against Covid as one of his key achievements, presided over a meeting of the Chinese Communist Party’s Politburo yesterday.

Major cities across China, including Beijing and Shanghai, saw protests last month that began to subside amid a heavy police presence and the lifting of various restrictions in various parts of the country.

Officials made no connection between the changes, either announced today or earlier, to the protests. But they have clearly softened their tone on the health risks of the virus — bringing China closer to what other countries have been saying for more than a year as they abandon restrictions and move toward a policy of living with the virus. .

The looser approach has sparked strong buying interest in cough and fever medicines as some residents, particularly the unvaccinated elderly, feel more vulnerable to the virus that has been largely kept under control by Beijing’s strict policy.

Feng Zhijian, a former official at the Chinese Center for Disease Control, told China Youth Daily that up to 60 percent of China’s population could be infected in the first large-scale wave before stabilization occurs. “Eventually, about 80%-90% of people will be infected,” he said.

China’s current tally of 5,235 deaths due to Covid is a tiny fraction of its population of 1.4 billion and extremely low compared to what has happened internationally.

Some investors also reacted positively to the change, which could boost China’s economy and currency as well as global growth.

“This policy change is a big step forward,” said Jiwei Zhang, chief economist at Pinpoint Asset Management. “I expect China to fully open its borders again no later than mid-2023.”

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