Chinese zero-covid policy: Censors wipe down internet after senior official’s speech on timeline for Beijing

Chinese zero-covid policy: Censors wipe down internet after senior official's speech on timeline for Beijing
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The Beijing Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese capital’s Communist Party, earlier reported that the city’s party chief Cai Qi said on Monday that “Over the next five years, Beijing will resolutely implement pandemic control measures. of Covid-19 and will maintain the ‘zero-Covid policy to prevent imported cases from entering and domestic cases to recover”.

The reported reference by Cai, who is a close ally of Chinese President Xi Jinping, to “the next five years” sparked a huge backlash on Chinese social media. In response, the Beijing Daily removed the line describing it as an “editing error” and left its other comments on pandemic checks untouched.

CNN reviewed the entire speech, and although the published quote from the Beijing Daily was misleading, Cai discussed at length the possibility of maintaining zero-Covid policies in the capital for the next five years.

Pandemic controls that would be maintained include routine PCR tests, strict entry rules, regular health checks in residential neighborhoods and public places, as well as rigorous monitoring and testing for people entering and leaving Beijing, Cai was quoted as saying. by state media.

“I have to rethink if I should continue in Beijing in the long term,” wrote a user on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform.

“For the next five years…what’s the point of being alive,” said another user.

Health workers take swab samples to test for COVID-19 at a makeshift testing site along a street in Beijing on May 11, 2022.

Weibo has since banned the hashtag “for the next five years” from its platform.

In early May, Xi doubled down on the zero-COVID policy at a meeting of the Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee, the country’s top decision-making body, ordering officials and all sectors of society to adhere to the “decisions and plans” of the leadership.

US Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns said at a Brookings Institution online event on June 16 that he expected China to maintain its zero-Covid policy until “the first few months of 2023,” according to Chinese government signals. .

WHO chief censored on China's internet after calling zero-Covid unsustainable

For months, cities across China, including Beijing and Shanghai, have been under full or partial lockdown due to the strict zero-Covid policy, wreaking havoc on economic activity and hurting the job market. In May, the unemployment rate for people aged 16 to 24 reached an all-time high of 18.4%.

China continues to lock down entire communities and cities over just a handful of Covid cases. All positive cases and close contacts are sent to government quarantine.

But there are signs that China is relaxing its quarantine policy for international arrivals.

On Tuesday, the National Health Commission announced that travelers arriving in China from abroad will now be subject to seven days of centralized quarantine, followed by three days of home health screening, up from 14 days of centralized quarantine and seven days of control at home. as required above. The new quarantine standards will also apply to close contacts of infected cases, the commission said.

China reported 23 locally transmitted COVID-19 cases across the country on Sunday, with Beijing and Shanghai each recording four cases, according to the country’s National Health Commission.

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