China faithful to zero Covid, weed concerts in Shanghai

China said on Friday it would move forward with its zero Covid strategy, the “main trump” against the coronavirus, despite growing frustration in Shanghai, where confined residents are now protesting by slamming pots on windows.

Largely spared for two years, the Asian giant is facing its worst epidemic outbreak since spring 2020. The Ministry of Health has once again announced over 15,500 new positive cases in the past 24 hours.

In the metropolis of Shanghai (east), by far the most affected and whose 25 million inhabitants have been confined since the beginning of April, authorities reported 52 further deaths on Friday, all unvaccinated.

The zero Covid strategy consists of various measures: confinement of neighborhoods or cities as soon as cases appear, quarantine of people who have tested positive, even asymptomatic, or even mass screening.

“This is an important resource for preventing and controlling the epidemic” in China, where 1.4 billion people live, Li Bin, deputy health minister, told the press on Friday.

“Our country is very populated, with regional development imbalances and a lack of medical resources. If we relax (measures) and let the virus spread, many people will be infected.”

The zero Covid strategy has made it possible to limit the number of deaths from illness (officially below 5,000).

But the long confinements weigh on the economy and are badly experienced by the population.

– Tintamarre –

In Shanghai, confined residents complain that they do not have enough fresh meat or vegetables.

Quickly censored videos posted on social media Thursday night show residents slamming pots and pans on windows while shouting “supplies.”

A woman from Shanghai told AFP, on condition that she remain anonymous for fear of possible reprisals, that she had seen an advertisement on the internet in advance. She joined the concert after hearing the hustle and bustle outside.

Residents line up to get tested for coronavirus in Guangzhou, China on April 28, 2022 (AFP – STR)

“I’ve seen a lot of such videos sent by people living in different districts,” he says.

Containment represents a titanic logistical challenge as 25 million inhabitants need to be supplied despite the lack of delivery personnel.

Internet censors have a hard time dealing with viral videos that are quickly making the rounds of social networks. They delete most of the content reporting administrative malfunctions or complaints from residents.

Censorship that also fuels the discontent of the Shanghai people.

While many countries have lifted health restrictions after their vaccination campaigns, Beijing considers this strategy impossible in the short term and too risky for its health system.

– “Without exit” –

Another problem raised by Liang Wannian, head of the team of experts against Covid commissioned by the Ministry of Health: the insufficient vaccination rate of the elderly in China.

However, this health policy should heavily penalize the tourism sector during the May 1st holidays, which begin on Saturday and last for five days.

A woman is tested for coronavirus in a testing center set up in front of office buildings in Beijing on April 29, 2022 (AFP - Jade GAO)
A woman is tested for coronavirus in a testing center set up in front of office buildings in Beijing on April 29, 2022 (AFP – Jade GAO)

The Chinese generally take the opportunity to go on vacation, but the Ministry of Transport already predicts a 62% drop in travel compared to 2021.

For the president of the European Union (EU) Chamber of Commerce in China, Joerg Wuttke, the priority of the authorities is in fact elsewhere.

“The mayors, the regional political leaders, at the moment all have only one compass: zero Covid” which is a “dead end”, estimated Thursday in a media interview The Market, of the Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. “They don’t care about the short-term economy.”

According to Wuttke, this health policy will last until the 20th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) at the end of 2022, during which time President Xi Jinping is expected to obtain a third term as head of the regime.

“He cannot change his speech (in front of Covid) so close to the finish line”, estimates Wuttke.

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