Alarm in Beijing after announcement of a zero-Covid policy that could last 5 years

Alarm in Beijing after announcement of a zero-Covid policy that could last 5 years

Beijing authorities have caused consternation and alarm after announcing that a strict zero-Covid policy, including mass mandatory testing and travel restrictions, could be implemented for the next five years.

The notice, which was published on Monday afternoon, was attributed to Cai Qi, the Chinese Communist Party’s Beijing secretary. According to the original text: “In the next five years, Beijing will unremittingly grasp the normalisation of epidemic prevention and control.”

The notice was published first by Beijing Daily and then by other state media outlets. The reference to “five years” was quickly removed from most online publications, and a related hashtag on Weibo was deleted, according to The Guardian.

It committed to maintaining and improving the city’s “strict management of the joint prevention and control coordination mechanism” as well as the emergency response system, including those designed to stop the virus’s circulation and spread through “isolation, management, and control… as soon as [transmissions] appear.” It also mentioned the continuation of strict residential inspections, the “normalisation” of routine testing, and the management of city entry and exit.

China’s leaders, led by President Xi Jinping, have repeatedly committed the country to a zero-Covid policy, despite the rest of the world opting for coexistence or mitigation. Xi has directed authorities to strike a balance between zero-Covid and economic growth, as the unpredictable measures irritate locals.

The announcement on Monday and the subsequent amendment sparked outrage and confusion among Beijing residents online. According to The Guardian, most commenters appeared unsurprised by the prospect of the system continuing for another half-decade, but few were in favour of the idea.

“Countdown to escape China,” said one Weibo user.

“The ultimate goal of fighting the epidemic is to return to normal life, and it seems that everyone has forgotten about this,” another noted.

By Brendon Taylor

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