For the moment, China is not turning back to the "zero-Covid" policy. Something about the current wave, however, has to be done.
It’s early 2020 all over again for China, as rural cities brace themselves for the upcoming Covid surge. The number of cases in the dragon country rose spectacularly in recent weeks, and many fear a resurgence of the pandemic was a variant to break out.
On January 22nd 2023, millions of people will go home from the busy cities on the coast for the Lunar New Year. By then, the welcoming cities want to find themselves prepared as not to spread the disease even further.
China Daily and Reuters reported stories of remote regions beefing up their sanitary defenses. Inner Mongolia, for example, is improving their intensive care units, and Fujian is seeking tenders for ambulances.
But this has not stopped the surge in cases, with reports coming from Shanghai and Beijing of full ICU units and lack of personnel. Hundreds of thousands of new cases are added to the toll every day.
As for the deaths, numbers are controversial (as they were at the height of the pandemic). China’s official number is 5.246 dead since the start of the pandemic, a suspiciously low amount compared to the rest of the world.
Indeed, Chinese health officials only consider in the official toll those who died for pneumonia and other respiratory issues caused by Covid. The real number of dead is much higher according to international statistics, and it could rise by over a million next year.
The reason for this sudden rise in cases is mostly related to the government lifting the “zero-Covid” policy. After the many protests across the country, Chinese president Xi Jinping decided to abandon this effort and lift restrictions.
Most recently, despite cases already surging, the Chinese government lifted travel restrictions for coming foreigners. By opening up the tourist sector, Xi Jinping hopes to provide relief to the exhausted Chinese economy.
However, the international community is starting to grow wary of the current Covid wave. Nobody wants to witness another pandemic anymore, therefore some countries are themselves restricting travel from and to China.
For the moment, travelers coming from China have to test negative in the United States, India, Japan, Italy and Taiwan. In Milan, where the first European Covid wave started because of two Italian businessmen landing from China, on-spot testing has started.
According to Italian officials, almost half of the travelers landing from Beijing and Shanghai test positive to Covid, a statistic denied by the Chinese government. Other countries are also considering putting further travel restrictions.
Our only hope is that this Covid wave is temporary and that vaccines will do their job. We also hope that now we are prepared to face a rise in cases, were it to happen again.