Shanghai is the epicenter of the latest epidemic, with 15,000 new cases being reported daily. Authorities responded by launching a nationwide lockdown that lasted for weeks, confining almost all 25 million residents of the once bustling financial center to their homes or neighborhoods.
Meanwhile, Beijing authorities have begun large-scale screening exercises, closed schools and imposed targeted lockdowns on some residential buildings to curb the infection. These measures have raised fears of a wider lockdown, like in Shanghai.
Throughout the epidemic, China has adhered to a strict zero-quad strategy that uses lockdowns, large-scale testing, quarantine and border closures to control the virus. But the advent of the highly contagious Omicron variety has called into question the sustainability of this strategy, as the virus is spreading in as many cities and provinces as the government can control.
Authorities are now enforcing full or partial lockdowns in at least 27 cities across the country, affecting 180 million people, according to CNN.
Here’s what you need to know about the situation in China.
Where are the lockdowns and restrictions?
Cases in China began to rise in March, soon after the country’s worst outbreak since the initial outbreak in Wuhan in early 2020.
The northeastern province of Jillian was hit hard during the early stages of the epidemic. The authorities put. The provincial capital, Changchun, an industrial center, under severe citywide lockdown on March 11, with the nearby city of Jilin on March 21.
On Thursday, Changchun and Jilin city officials, with a total population of more than 13.5 million residents, said they would soon begin gradually easing the lockdown – although it was unclear how the process would work. Will happen, or under what circumstances people will be allowed to leave their homes.
Authorities closed several other cities, including Shenzhen’s main economic center, in March – although some of those measures have been scrapped.
Shanghai, which has recorded more than half a million cases since March 1, introduced a surprise lockdown at the end of March. By the end of the month, the lockdown had spread across the city.
Shanghai officials said Wednesday that some neighborhoods could start reducing lockdown measures if they have not reported a case in the past two weeks – but this is a weak independence, even if a local case is detected. So there is a risk of re-enforcing the lockdown.
In Beijing, a large-scale screening campaign covered about 20 million residents – about 90% of the city’s population. Another round of testing is underway across the city. April 27-30.
A targeted lockdown this week in Beijing’s Chauang District prevented residents of at least 46 buildings from leaving their apartments or compounds, while more than 5,300 people were locked up in Fangshan District.
The capital closed schools in many of its most populous districts on Thursday. Several major hospitals have also announced that they are closing, and a growing number of entertainment venues, including cinemas, have been ordered to close.
More than two dozen cities, including Hangzhou, have full or district lockdowns, with a population of 12.2 million. Suzhou, home to 12.7 million people; And Harbin, home to 9.5 million people. They cover 14 provinces, from the remote northeastern province of Heilongjiang to southern Guangxi and mountainous western Qinghai province.
How is life in lockdown?
Much of the Shanghai lockdown is due to chaos and inefficiency – alarm bells ringing in other cities Fearing they might be next.
Many residents have complained of food shortages, lack of medical access, poor conditions in makeshift quarantine camps and harsh measures taken by authorities to separate affected children from their parents.
In March, an off-duty nurse in Shanghai died after turning away from the emergency ward of her own hospital, which had been closed for sterilization. In early April, a health worker beat a pet corgi to death when her employer tested positive for cod, which was captured on camera. Last week, workers allegedly broke down the door of a 92-year-old woman’s house early in the morning. to emphasize He was quarantined.
These and many more stories have gone viral on Chinese social media, sparking a rare outcry online.
These events – especially in Shanghai, which has long been seen as China’s most modern and cosmopolitan city – have put people elsewhere on high alert.
Although Beijing has not yet banned the movement of people outside designated high-risk areas, many residents – fearing a widespread lockdown on the cards – began shopping this week in panic, Super Line up at the market checkout and clear the shelves.
What is the economic cost?
Lockdowns and sanctions have dealt a major blow to activity – especially in economically important cities such as Shanghai and Shenzhen.
Unemployment hit a 21-month high in March. Many businesses have been forced to suspend operations in several locations, including automakers Volkswagen and Tesla and iPhone assembler Pegatron. The Chinese currency, the yuan, weakened sharply this week, hitting its lowest level since November 2020.
Earlier this month, Jorge Witke, president of the European Union’s Chamber of Commerce in China, said the Chinese government was “painfully aware of the damage to the economy.” He cited a private meeting with the Chinese ministry, but declined to name the agency.
“They are worried about unemployment,” he added. “They are worried about diverting money from foreign companies.”
Why is China based on zero quad?
Yet Growing anger In the wake of the chaos lockdown, and the death toll that has remained relatively low since the latest outbreak, officials and state media have indicated that China’s zero-sum policy is not changing anytime soon.
The dire situation in Shanghai “underscores the need to adhere to a dynamic zero-sum policy,” the nationalist tabloid, Global Times, said on Wednesday.
“If Shanghai, rich in the country’s best medical systems, desperately needs help to cope with the growing number of serious cases, who will offer help if other parts of China also have to fight the Corona virus?” “
There are a number of reasons why China has so stubbornly maintained a zero-sum game. Many Chinese leaders and scientists have expressed concern that easing sanctions could allow the virus to spread across the country, potentially increasing infections and deaths, and improving health care. The system can be overwhelmed – especially in the elderly due to low vaccination rates.
While China has focused its resources on the development and manufacture of home-made vaccines, it has failed to ensure that they reach the arms of the elderly population. Now, as authorities maintain expectations that the country’s mortality rate will remain low, they have no choice but to rely on lockdowns to protect the vulnerable.
There is also a political element, in which Xi has firmly placed his personal seal on the zero-sum policy throughout the epidemic. The central government has often pointed to fewer casualties at the official level as proof of the effectiveness of its strategy and to burn its claims of supremacy over Western governments.
Xi has personally reiterated his support for zero quaid in the entire epidemic, claiming last year that he had demonstrated China’s commitment to saving “every human life” – especially at stake. The government is now struggling to control the virus at the same time. Reducing the economy, and public dissatisfaction.
And for Eleven, it comes at a particularly sensitive time, months before their expected move to an almost extraordinary third term in power this fall.