Monday, February 6, 2023

China rebounds in cases after easing anti-virus measures

BEIJING ( Associated Press) – Social media users reported a rise in COVID-19 cases at schools and businesses in China on Friday, as the ruling Communist Party eased restrictions against the virus in an effort to address a deepening economic downturn. Relaxed.

Official figures showed a drop in new positive cases, but no longer covered much of the population as the government ended mandatory virus testing for many people on Wednesday. The measure was part of sweeping changes that seek to gradually abandon the strict “zero COVID” policy that has confined millions of people to their homes and sparked protests and calls for the resignation of President Xi Jinping.

Netizens in Beijing and other cities posted that colleagues or schoolmates were sick and some businesses were closed due to staff shortages. It was not clear, based on reports, many of which could not be independently verified, how much higher the actual number of cases could be from the official figures.

“I’m really speechless. Half of the people in the company are sick, but they don’t let us stay home,” said a post signed by Tunnel Mouth on the popular Sina Weibo platform. The user did not give his name and did not respond to questions sent through the platform, which said he was based in Beijing.

The reports are a reminder of the situation in the United States, Europe and other economies that have battled various outbreaks while trying to recover business activity. But they are a startling change in China, where the “Zero COVID” plan, aimed at isolating all the positive, has disrupted daily life and depressed economic activity, keeping contagion levels low.

Xi’s government began to ease the measures on 11 November after pledging to reduce their costs and the disruption they cause. Imports fell 10.9% in November from a year earlier in a sign of weak demand. Car sales declined by 26.5% in October.

“Easing controls against Covid will lead to larger outbreaks,” Neil Thomas and Laura Glaudman of the Eurasia Group said in a report. “But it is unlikely that Beijing will again resort to prolonged blanket lockdowns, which hammered the economy earlier in the year.”

The changes show the ruling party is softening its goal of stopping transmission of the virus, which was the basis of its strict protocols, but officials say the strategy remains in place.

According to public health experts and economists, the restrictions could remain in place until at least mid-2023. Millions of elderly people would have to be vaccinated, which would take months, and hospitals would have to be reinvigorated against infections, he added. The officials had announced the vaccination drive last week.

The Chinese government reported 16,797 new cases on Friday, of which 13,160 were asymptomatic. The data represents a decrease of one-fifth from the previous day, and less than half of last week’s daily peak, which topped 40,000 cases.

The changes followed protests in Shanghai, Beijing and other cities on November 25 over the human cost of the government’s policy.

It was not clear whether any of the changes were a response to the demonstrations, which ended after a crackdown by security forces.

Nation World News Desk
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