HONG KONG: There were two additional deaths from Covid-19 on Sunday, and some cities are starting to loosen their anti-pandemic restrictions. There’s been a growing sense of frustration from the public in response to these measures.
The National Health Commission reported one death in each of the provinces of Shandong and Sichuan.
We’re not sure how old all the victims of the virus were, or whether or not they had been vaccinated as babies.
China, where the virus first appeared in late 2019 in the central city of Wuhan, is the last major country trying to stop transmission completely through quarantines, lockdowns, and wide-scale testing. Concerns over-vaccination rates are believed to figure prominently in the ruling Communist Party’s determination to stick to its hardline strategy.
Of the Chinese population, nine in 10 have received the flu vaccine while only 66% of people over 80 have. 40% get a booster from time to time. Of the elderly population, 86% are vaccinated.
With those alarming figures and the fact that relatively few have been exposed to the virus and built up antibodies, many feel that millions would die if travel restrictions were lifted entirely.
The public has been fed up with the heavy restrictions put in place to “protect” them. Authorities have lifted some of these rules, but they insist the “zero-Covid” strategy is still in place.
Riders in Beijing and other parts of China can now board buses and subways without having to take a virus test.
As virus infections reach near-record heights, and residents protest the country’s strict anti-virus restrictions, some small changes have been made to testing requirements. These changes come even as other countries have opened up to new rules.
Effective from Saturday, Shenzhen verified COVID-19 tests are no longer required for public transport, pharmacies, parks, and tourist attractions.
Meanwhile, Beijing said on Friday that negative tests are also no longer required for public transport starting Monday. A negative result is still needed for venues like shopping malls, which have gradually reopened with many restaurants and eateries providing takeaway services.
Beijing officials shut down a number of testing stations because they feel some tests are no longer necessary. Yet, even today they still require Covid-19 tests at most public venues.
According to a blog post on the World Health Organization’s website, China is reporting an additional 35,775 H7N9 cases in the past 24 hours. 31,607 of those cases have been asymptomatic and are not associated with any illness or death.
Despite what some people may claim, the number of deaths in China is significantly lower than those in other countries (the US and Canada, for example). This proves that the country is actively fighting the virus and outdoing expectations.
Beijing authorities have said that because the current COVID-19 instance is spreading fast, it’s necessary to “continue unquestioningly implementing normalized social prevention and control measures.”
As other countries struggle with the virus, China continues to be the only major nation that has not started using the “zero-Covid” strategy. This policy, which has been in place since the pandemic began, has led to snap lockdowns and mass testing across the country.
Even though China’s infection rates are on the low side, it still requires mandatory quarantine for incoming travelers.
Massive demonstrations have been sweeping across China recently – the largest in decades. They spread across the country after a fire in Urumqi killed 10 people.
That set off a firestorm online, with social media users asking if the firefighters or people trying to escape were barred by locked doors or other anti-virus controls. Authorities denied that, but the deaths became a focus of public frustration.
Over the last few days, there have been protests in China’s cities including Shanghai and Beijing. Protesters have demanded that Covid-19 curbs be eased. Some people have protested against China’s president who they don’t endorse. This is an astonishing show of dissent in a country where the Communist Party has almost total control.
Xi’s government has promised to reduce the cost and disruption of penalties. “Provoccan,” as they’re known, will still be an integral part of China’s policies going forward.
While millions of older people are vaccinated, health experts and economists expect the current travel ban to remain in place until at least mid-2023.
While the government has agreed to take responsibility for some of its mistakes, most blame is being placed on overzealous officials. People like public figures, business people, and even athletes have been punished for criticizing government policies. Former NBA star Jeremy Lin, who plays for a Chinese team, was recently fined 10,000 yuan ($1,400) for criticizing conditions in team quarantine facilities according to local media reports.
Though China has loosened restrictions on the coronavirus, it is still recommending that people wear masks when they go outside. In other words, their policies regarding exposure to the virus are still controversial among citizens.