Is the ‘Covid Zero’ policy reaching its limit? Beijing on Tuesday reported a record number of Covid cases in almost three years, a rise that prompted authorities to order schools and restaurants to close while many employees were ordered to work from home. The capital of 22 million, which registered 621 new local cases on Sunday, reported 1,438 cases on Tuesday, a record since the pandemic began.
The total number of daily cases nationwide, including imported cases, now exceeds 28,000, with the southern province of Guangdong and the southwestern city of Chongqing hardest hit, according to health authorities.
China is the latest major global economy to enforce a strict health policy known as “Covid zero” that aims to do everything possible to prevent infection and death. It consists of imposing restrictions as soon as cases appear, quarantine for people who test positive, and almost daily PCR tests for the public.
Chinese people are very tired
But this strategy, initially effective in containing the spread of the virus, seems to be fizzling out in the face of new options and dealing a severe blow to the economy, isolating China from the rest of the world and causing great fatigue among the Chinese.
Three elderly Beijing residents with pre-existing conditions died from Covid over the weekend, the first reported death from the virus since May. City officials seem to want to avoid a strict lockdown like the one applied in Shanghai in the spring for now, but have nonetheless stepped up sanitary measures in recent days.
Nearly 600 districts of the capital, including residential buildings, have been categorized as “high risk”, forcing residents to remain locked up in their homes or transported to quarantine centers. Schools have switched to online classes, restaurants, gyms, parks and tourist sites are closed, and employees are being asked to work from home. On the streets, queues in front of Covid test booths are getting longer, and most public places now require a negative test within 24 hours to enter.
However, on Nov. 11, the Chinese government unveiled several significant loosenings to its “zero Covid” policy, including a reduction in quarantine time for travelers arriving from overseas.
Several Chinese cities also stopped large-scale trials last week, but some have since resumed them, reflecting the difficulty in controlling the more contagious variant of Omicron.