Monday, March 4

China begins to quietly withdraw its zero Covid policy in the face of historic popular disobedience

In public, the Communist Party intends to turn a deaf ear to a society in rebellion, which has caused the biggest crisis of legitimacy in decades. However, the reality is that, after more than two and a half years under the zero Covid policy, the slow and tortuous transition back to normality has already begun in the last country in the world that still resists living with the virus. .

ABC has learned that several infected people have been able to comply with the quarantine at their respective homes in Beijing, and that within their blocks the restrictions have only affected adjacent plants. This informal practice, which is not explicitly stated in any directive to date, represents a colossal advance. A few weeks earlier, a similar scenario would have caused the confinement of the entire residential complex and even the displacement of the residents, infected or not, to quarantine camps.

The Canton municipal government already implemented similar measures on Thursday for close contacts of positive cases according to certain conditions. By means of this concession, he tried to appease the riots that shook the central district of Haizhu on Tuesday night, where, as in previous weeks, rioting citizens confronted the security forces.

The Chinese capital, in addition, also allows since Thursday that children, the elderly and people who work or study remotely do not participate in the massive tests, mandatory at least every two days. In practice, this exemption benefits a large part of the inhabitants, given the semi-confinement that for a week and a half has kept educational centers, offices, and all kinds of commercial premises closed.

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These news reinforce the thesis that the Covid zero policy in its current formula has its days numbered, as ABC has been advancing. The current outbreak, the worst since the beginning of the pandemic, has passed the point of no return. Furthermore, society has shown that it is not willing to tolerate the prevailing restrictions, much less an intensification of them. This places China before a more or less controlled, but forced reopening.

a new narrative

Vice Premier Sun Chunlan, in charge of coordinating health strategy at the state level, became the first senior official yesterday to tone down government discourse. “The country faces a new situation and new demands in pandemic prevention as the pathogenicity of the omicron variant weakens, more people are vaccinated, and experience in virus containment accumulates,” she said, according to statements collected by official media. .

They have also registered a sudden change in tone: from inciting fear in the face of new variants and persistent Covid, they have now gone on to proclaim their irrelevance. The tabloid ‘Global Times’ presented this Friday a scientific study that proves the weakness of the current subtypes with respect to the original virus. Information topped with the following coda: “This reminds us that we should not panic before omicron, since for normal people the damage caused by the coronavirus has decreased significantly.”

The Government thus prepares the ground for an imminent change of strategy. Your priority will be “flatten the curve”, expression that in other countries belongs to a past time. In this sense, vaccination of the elderly is a priority action front, since 30% of those over 60 years of age –267 million people– have not received the third dose necessary to equate the efficacy of Chinese vaccines with Western ones. The campaign has been paralyzed since July, but the newspaper ‘Caixin’ announced today that the authorities have set the goal of raising the percentage to 90% by the end of January next year.

There is also a second change underway with the reopening: that of a new narrative that allows the Communist Party to present, in public, its zero Covid policy as a resounding success.

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