After Shanghai reported the first Covid deaths in China since May, local governments all over the country started implementing restrictions again.
Three years after the Covid-19 virus broke out of its birthplace, China, that nation still seems to be under the disease’s tight grip. While the rest of the world has moved on, indifferent to the still many deaths and even more cases, China is determined to fight the battle to the bitter end.
The “zero-Covid” policy is the signature of Chinese leader Xi Jinping. He is, undoubtedly, the most powerful man on the planet after he obtained a third term as President removing all opposition. He alone can choose the path that China will take, and Covid will not be part of it.
Even though the Chinese economy is struggling (being in very good company, in fairness), the government of Shanghai and Beijing issued new Covid restrictions. Cases mounted in the past few weeks, reaching an average of over 20.000 per day. During the weekend, three people died of the illness, the first since May.
These might sound like small crumbs to a Western eye, especially considering the scale of the Chinese population. And yet many local governments in China decided to take action.
Beijing closed museums and parks. Shanghai prohibited going to shopping malls and other public places within five days of arrival, closing entertainment venues in seven districts of the city.
The Bayun district in Guangzhou (almost 4 million people) went into lockdown, as did Shijiazhuang (11 million people). Mass testing will be carried out.
“Will someone think of the economy?!”
The Chinese government is adamant on completely eradicating Covid from their country, no matter the economic cost. Indeed, the zero-Covid policy is costing them, and the economical effects are starting to be seen.
Imports decreased by 0.3% year on year in October, compared to a 6.7% hike in September. China is also importing less semiconductors and their exports fell by 0.7% last month. And the situation is likely to continue like this.
An Oxford economic report states that they “expect the Chinese authorities will continue to fine-tune COVID controls over the coming months, moving toward a broader and more comprehensive reopening later.”
Some think that the zero-Covid policy will be carried out at least until March next year, when Xi should solidify his power. Others point at the end of 2023.
Crucially, the zero-Covid policy seems to have a great toll on the Chinese population. Earlier this April, during Shanghai’s full lockdown, chilling videos of screams from the city’s skyscrapers ran all over the internet. The people there were starving, with no access to food, medicine and sometimes water.
People are losing jobs, and the economy is lagging behind. Once the global recession that is supposed to arrive next year hits China, it could be a major blow.