China is one of few countries that still adheres to the “Zero Covid”, a policy of massive testing and draconian lockdowns when an outbreak is detected. With winter approaching, Chinese citizens are preparing for unprecedented measures to stop the virus from spreading.
More than 200 million people are currently under total lockdown. There is no shopping, work, or even a stroll in the park.
According to Reuters, Lily Li (a 28-year-old Guangzhou resident) said that many of her friends and coworkers were under lockdown at their homes. The situation is unstable. Many areas are currently under lockdown. Classes have been stopped, and entertainment venues have been closed. The gym where I used to go often has been closed.
Many China watchers believed President Xi would use last week’s party congress to announce a gradual lifting by the government of some of the harsher zero Covid measures that had angered the people and contributed to an economic slowdown.
Instead, Xi stated that the nation would redouble efforts to stop the pandemic by isolating the people and locking down the county.
China reported Thursday that it had more than 1,000 COVID cases in China for the third consecutive day. This is a small number compared to the hundreds of thousands of cases per day that put Shanghai under lockdown earlier this year, but enough to cause more restrictions throughout the country.
China’s coronavirus cases have been low by international standards. However, its disruptive and strict containment measures against the Omicron variant of the highly transmissible Omicron virus this year have had a significant impact on the second-largest country in the world.
Guangzhou, China’s fourth largest city in terms of economic output, and Guangdong’s provincial capital sealed more streets and neighborhoods and kept people inside their homes. This was in response to a COVID resurgence, which continued into its fourth week.
China is stuck in Covid hell, despite having a policy that has failed everywhere it has been tried. If a leader in Communist countries admits to error, they will be unceremoniously “retired” without a trace.
This case shows that Xi made a huge mistake and cannot afford to alter the policy. The lockdowns have not only slowed down the economy but also caused discontent to rumble through the country.
What will happen to the Chinese people if they continue to accept these lockdowns for so long?
Professor of infectious diseases at Australia National University Peter Collignon and Chen Zhengming, an Oxford epidemiologist, see China adhering to the travel restrictions, mass testing, lockdowns, and travel bans of Covid Zero throughout winter. However, tweaks will not be made until next year, after the National People’s Congress (NPC) which is scheduled to take place in March or April. Collignon suggested that China might be forced to adopt a more pragmatic approach, as lockdowns are less effective in eliminating Covid cases, especially over winter.
What happens next winter? Xi might be willing to allow Western vaccines to continue being used. However, China’s refusal to release any new vaccines at the first signs of infection will mean that nothing will change. China will continue with its failed policies that fuel discontent among the people.