By Álvaro Alfaro
Beijing, Dec 7 (EFE).- While many in China are celebrating the easing of the country’s strict ‘zero-Covid’ measures that have been in place for nearly three years, others are in favor of keeping the restrictions in place amid fears of a deadly surge in infections.
The policy, which was relaxed on Wednesday by the state council in the wake of unprecedented protests last month, now allows people with coronavirus symptoms to isolate at home rather than be quarantined in hospitals or isolation centers, while negative tests to access shopping centers and public transport have also been lifted.
FEAR OF REOPENING
Several Chinese cities began relaxing some Covid rules following a surge of protests last month calling for an end to mass testing, although not everyone agreed with the demonstrators.
In November, with the city of Zhengzhou facing an outbreak, a photo was widely shared on Chinese social media in which residents had gathered with a banner calling on authorities to “Take the covid-positive people away and isolate them” and urging for PCR testing to remain.
It was one of the first displays of discontent against the shift of the policy which had succeeded in keeping infections and deaths to a minimum, albeit at the expense of severe economic damage in China, the so-called “factory of the world”, which has seen exports steadily decline in recent years.
Soon after, the northern city of Shijiazhuang was one of the first to reduce the frequency of PCR testing. Although the looser controls lasted only a few days, it was enough for numerous parents to decide not to send their children to school.
While some cities are choosing to relax their zero-covid policy, others have decided to take the restrictions even further.
That is the case for the northeastern city of Jinzhou, where the local government announced it would continue implementing the measures for a few days to achieve “total victory” and return to “normal life”.
SUPPORT ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Despite some of the protests against mass testing and in favor of reopening, many residents oppose the shift.
On Weibo, China’s answer to Twitter, thousands of posts are showing support for the government’s strict measures and its accomplishments.
“Despite the imperfections, I thank the country for the protection provided,” said one user.
MISTRUST OF FOREIGN COUNTRIES
Many of the outbreaks in China have been attributed to products coming from abroad, such as clothing or frozen seafood, which has generated suspicion towards other countries among some Chinese citizens.
The country has been shut to international tourism since March 2020, when the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global pandemic.
The authorities still enforce strict border controls, which include blocking the issuing of new passports and denials of international travel other than for work, to visit family, to study, or medical reasons.
While quarantines, which are mandatory for all incoming travelers and last five days, could also be lifted, international travel is unlikely to see an increase.
Only about 12% of Chinese nationals have passports and, according to the consulting firm Oliver Wyman, 55% of Chinese are “worried about contracting Covid abroad”, while half fear being stranded abroad if there was a sudden change in entry requirements.EFE