China continues ‘zero COVID’ policy with Beijing lockdown – NBC Chicago

Beijing has closed city parks and imposed other restrictions as the country faces a new wave of COVID-19 cases, even as millions of people remained stuck in western and southern parts of the country on Friday. China.

On Friday, the country reported 10,729 new cases, almost all of whom tested positive without showing symptoms. More than 5 million people were stranded in the southern manufacturing hub of Guangzhou and the western megacity of Chongqing on Friday.

While the bulk of Beijing’s 21 million people undergo near-daily testing, an additional 118 new cases have been recorded in the sprawling city. Many schools in the city have switched to online classes, hospitals have restricted services and some shops and restaurants have been closed, with their staff quarantined. Videos on social media showed people in some areas protesting or fighting with police and health workers.

“It has become normal, just like eating and sleeping,” said Yang Zheng, 39, a restaurant worker. “I think what affects the most is the children, because they have to go to school.”

Test requests every 24 to 48 hours are “inconvenient”, said Ying Yiyang, who works in marketing.

“My life is definitely not comparable to what it was three years ago,” Ying said. Family visits outside Beijing can be difficult if the smartphone app that virtually all Chinese are required to display does not give the green light to return to the capital. , said Ying.

“I’m just staying in Beijing,” Ying said.

Many villages on the outskirts of the capital that are home to blue-collar workers whose work keeps the city running have been confined. Many live in dormitories, which taxi and ride-hailing drivers have said they avoid so as not to be quarantined themselves.

Closures in Guangzhou and elsewhere were due to end on Sunday, but authorities have repeatedly extended those restrictions without explanation.

China’s leaders had vowed on Thursday to address public frustration over its harsh “zero-COVID” strategy that has confined millions of people to their homes and severely disrupted the economy.

The government said on Friday it was reducing the time incoming passengers would be required to undergo quarantine. The U.S. Embassy this week renewed its advisory to citizens to avoid travel to and within China unless absolutely necessary.

Incoming passengers will only be quarantined for five days, instead of the previous seven, at a designated location, followed by three days of isolation at their place of residence, according to a notice from the State Council, Chinese Cabinet .

It was not immediately clear when and where the rules would come into effect and whether they would apply to foreigners and Chinese citizens.

Eased standards would also be applied to foreign businessmen and athletes, in what appeared to be a gradual move towards normalization.

Airlines will no longer be threatened with a two-week suspension of flights if five or more passengers test positive, the regulations say, potentially offering a major seat expansion on those flights that have fallen in number and risen in price since the restrictions were imposed in 2020.

Those flying to China will only need to show one negative test for the virus within 48 hours of travel, according to the rules. Previously, two tests within this period were required.

‘Zero-COVID’ has kept China’s infection rate relatively low, but is weighing on the economy and disrupting life by closing schools, factories and shops, or sealing off neighborhoods without warning . With the new surge in cases, a growing number of regions are closing businesses and imposing restrictions on movement. To enter office buildings, shopping malls and other public places, people must show a negative result of a virus test taken up to once a day.

Apple said Sunday that COVID-19 restrictions in China will reduce iPhone 14 production capacity at the primary assembly plant in Zhengzhou.

As economic growth weakens again after rebounding to 3.9% year on year in the three months to September, forecasters expected bolder moves to reopen the country, whose borders remain largely closed.

President and ruling Communist Party leader Xi Jinping is set to make a rare overseas trip next week, but has made little sign of backing away from a policy the party has closely associated with social stability. and the avowed superiority of his policy.

That was maintained by his seven-person Politburo Standing Committee, which was appointed in October at a party convention that also expanded Xi’s political dominance by nominating him for a third five-year term as leader. It is teeming with its loyalists, including Shanghai’s former party leader, who imposed a draconian lockdown that triggered food shortages, shuttered factories and confined millions of people to their homes for two months or more.

Residents of cities with just one case in the past week are not allowed to travel to Beijing, while travelers from abroad must quarantine in a hotel for seven to 10 days – if they are able to navigate the timely and opaque visa process.

Business groups say this discourages foreign executives from visiting, prompting companies to shift their investment plans to other countries. Visits by U.S. officials and lawmakers tasked with maintaining crucial trade relations amid tensions over tariffs, Taiwan and human rights have all but stalled.

Last week, access to part of the central city of Zhengzhou, home to the world’s largest iPhone factory, was suspended after residents tested positive for the virus. Thousands of workers jumped fences and marched along highways to escape the factory run by Taiwan’s Foxconn Technology Group. Many said colleagues who fell ill received no help and working conditions were unsafe.

Also last week, people posted outraged comments on social media after a 3-year-old boy, whose North West compound was under quarantine, died of carbon monoxide poisoning. His father complained that the guards enforcing the closure refused to help him and tried to arrest him as he took his son to hospital.

Despite these complaints, Chinese citizens have little say in shaping policy under the authoritarian one-party system that maintains rigid controls over the media and public protests.

Speculation over when the measures will be eased has centered on the government’s willingness to import or locally produce more effective vaccines, with the elderly population particularly vulnerable.

That could happen as early as next spring, when a new slate of officials is expected to be named under Xi’s continued leadership. Or, the restrictions could persist much longer if the government continues to reject the notion of living to learn with a relatively low level of cases that cause far fewer hospitalizations and deaths than when the pandemic was at its peak.

NBC Chicago

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