Shanghai suggests closure could end soon as pressure mounts on China’s “zero Covid” policy

HONG KONG – Officials Shanghai:which had been under siege for weeks as officials struggled Chinais the worst coronavirus Since the outbreak began on Friday, they said they aim to have zero out of quarantine by May 20.

It could allow restrictions to be eased in a city of 26 million people, where residents have complained of food shortages and mental health challenges as the blockade has been extended several times.

As the rest of the world moves on to live with the virus, China Covid strategy gets more attention, including rare criticism Tedros Adhanom GebreiususGeneral Director World Health Organizationwho said it was not stable in the form of a highly transferable homicron version.

“Given the behavior of the virus, I think the shift will be very important,” he told a news conference this week, adding that he had discussed the issue with Chinese experts.

His comments came after the president Xi Jinping Reaffirms Commitment to China’s Covid Strategy to Protect Cases and Deaths much lower than in the United States և other countries. A change in course could threaten his plan to secure an unprecedented third term at the Chinese Communist Party Congress later this year, analysts say.

During a meeting led by Xi last week, the party’s top leaders vowed to “reflect on the general policy of ‘dynamic zero Covid’ to resolutely fight against any word or deed that distorts, suspects or denies our country’s epidemic prevention policy. »

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The message was sent to the Shanghai government, which was trying to redouble its anti-corruption measures as some residents limited movement was allowed For the first time in weeks, they were ordered to return home. Others report workers known as the “Great Whites” who forced people into their homes to disinfect and quarantine entire buildings if one of the residents tested positive.

Tedros’ comments were quickly suppressed by Chinese censors, who removed a post from the United Nations page on Weibo, a popular Chinese social media platform, and blocked users from searching for his name.

Asked about his comments, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said China’s Covid policy was based on “national realities”, with officials adjusting anti-epidemic measures based on changing circumstances.

“We hope that relevant people will look at China Covid’s policy in an objective, rational light, learn more about the facts, and refrain from making irresponsible statements,” he told a news conference on Wednesday.

Zhao pointed to a The study was published in the journal Nature this weekwhich said uncontrollable omicron: The outbreak in China could lead to a “tsunami” of 1.55 million deaths, mostly among unvaccinated people over the age of 60. Chinese leaders fear a repeat of this year’s deadly omicron outbreak Hong Kong areawhich, like mainland China, had low vaccination rates among the elderly.

Hong Dongyan, a virologist at the University of Hong Kong, says the Nature’s research model contradicts real-world data from Shanghai, where more than 600,000 cases of less than և 600 have been reported since March 1. Deaths | deaths.

“In fact, it is clear that the real damage is not so serious,” he said.

“Many of the measures taken in Shanghai are ineffective and may even be counterproductive,” Jin said.

“They need to vaccinate children, vaccinate the elderly, that is the first priority,” he said. “If they can do it well, they are in a much better position to abandon the zero Covid policy.”

Workers stand on the perimeter of a blockade in Shanghai’s Qinghan District on May 4.Hector Retamal / AFP Getty Images

He told the Xinhua meeting that the blockade of Shanghai would be as successful as it was Wuhan, the central city of China, was closed for 76 days In 2020, after the virus was first detected there last year. But a lot has changed since then, says Jennifer Hsu, a researcher studying Chinese public-state relations at the Lowe’s Sydney Institute.

“People do not unite around the party-state zero-Covid strategy, as before, we see that division being played out online,” he said.

Some Chinese academics and economists have been censored online after questioning the legitimacy of some measures in Shanghai or concerns about the economic impact of the country’s current blockade, which has spread to dozens of cities and affected hundreds of millions of people.

Last month, the International Monetary Fund lowered China’s 2022 growth forecast from 4.8 percent to 4.4 percent, citing Shanghai and elsewhere. Unemployment in China’s urban areas rose to 5.8 percent in March, the highest level since May 2020, as the omicron outbreak brought tighter restrictions.

China’s Covid restrictions have also been criticized by foreign business groups, such as the American Chamber of Commerce in China. According to A. survey among 121 companies The group, held from April 29 to May 5, said more than half of those polled had delayed or reduced investment due to an omicron outbreak in the country.

“We understand that China has made health and safety a priority, but the current measures undermine the credibility of US business in China,” said President Colm Raferti.

People wearing face masks walk down one of the streets of Beijing on Wednesday.
People wearing face masks walk down one of Beijing’s streets on Wednesday. Mark Schiffelbein / AP

China’s strategy is really evolving, says Wang Huaiao, president of the Beijing-based China Globalization Center. He showed situation in Beijingwhich reports dozens of omicron cases a day. There have been mass trials, a partial shutdown of transport, a ban on catering, and blockades in some residential buildings, but so far it has avoided urban blockades.

He said Beijing’s experience could pave the way for China if it succeeds, but it will take another week or two to find out.

“If that works, China can do well again. If not, you have to find a way to follow the international example,” Wang said. “But China would not refuse to do that at this time. I think we still need some time. “

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