China begins exit from zero covid policy

After a week of exceptional protests, the authorities have announced a “new phase” in the fight against the epidemic.

by Simon Leplâtre (Shanghai, Correspondance)

Beijing ended up listening to the street. After a week of exceptional protests, led both by students and residents angry with their confinement, the Chinese authorities announced, Thursday 1 December, the entry into a “new phase” . The announcement also comes at a pivotal moment, after almost three years of a zero draconian covid policy: several cities, including the Chinese capital, where the number of cases amounted to 3,968 daily cases at 1 /SUP> December – and 6,653 cases in Canton – see the number of cases increase to a level which would require general containment to return to some infections per day. On the contrary, Beijing and Canton announced Thursday that some contacts can now isolate themselves at home and no longer in collective centers with summary conditions. The release of zero covid should however take months and go through complicated phases, in a country where many people are terrified at the idea of ​​being contaminated.

Several signals had been sent in this sense at the start of the week, but it was the Deputy Prime Minister, Sun Chunlan, responsible for the response to the epidemic since early 2020, who has clarified things: “While The omicron variant becomes less pathogenic, that more people are vaccinated and that our experience in the prevention of COVID-19 has progressed, our fight against the pandemic arrives at a new stage, “she said. Thursday, the canton tower, the highest skyscraper in the capital of Guangdong, displayed an unequivocal message: “Each person is individually the first person responsible for their health.”

The government had started a slight change on November 11, by publishing twenty measures supposed to help better target restrictions, prohibiting for example too large confinements or prevention school closings. But while the number of cases increases with the arrival of winter, local governments have only strengthened the restrictions, because the objective displayed by Beijing remained zero covid. Shanghai’s experience in March, however, showed that trying to stop the omicron variant with targeted measures does not work. This gap between Beijing’s speeches and reality on the ground has also fueled the tensions of recent weeks. The announcement of Sun Chunlan clarifies things: if it has not proclaimed the official end of zero covid, which will take time, it has not pronounced this formula in its speech.

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/Media reports cited above.