COVID spread fears rise as China lifts zero-tolerance restrictions

COVID spread fears rise as China lifts zero-tolerance restrictions
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  • The biggest relaxation of sidewalks since the pandemic began
  • Cities urge citizens to stay vigilant
  • Analysts say China is not prepared for a big spike in cases

BEIJING/SHANGHAI, Dec 8 (Reuters) – Many Chinese embraced new freedoms on Thursday after the country abandoned key parts of its harsh zero-COVID regimethere was growing concern that a virus that had largely been kept in check could soon run amok.

Three years into the pandemic, many in China were eager for Beijing to start aligning its rigid virus prevention measures with the rest of the world, which has largely opened up in an effort to live with the disease.

Those frustrations turned into widespread protests last month, the biggest outpouring of public discontent since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2012.

Without saying it was a response to those protests, some cities and regions began relaxing COVID controls, in moves that heralded a nationwide easing of rules revealed by the National Health Commission on Wednesday.

The NHC said infected people with mild symptoms can now self-quarantine at home and removed the need for tests and health checks on mobile apps for a range of activities, including traveling across the country.

Domestic ticket sales for tourist and entertainment venues have soared, according to state media, as some people took to social media to reveal that they had tested positive for the virus, something that had previously carried a strong stigma in China.

Others expressed caution.

“I know COVID isn’t so ‘horrifying’ right now, but it’s still contagious and it will hurt,” said a post on the Weibo platform. “The fear brought to our hearts cannot be easily dispelled.”

“Too many positives!” said another Weibo user.

Some manufacturers and restaurants eager to stay open in China prefer to err on the side of caution, curb retention COVID-19 until they have a clearer idea of ​​how workplaces will be affected by the easing of strict measures.

However, Apple supplier Foxconn (2317.TW) COVID-hit Zhengzhou facility in China lifted its “closed loop” management restrictions on Thursday, he said in a statement posted on his WeChat account.

The Zhengzhou industrial park where Foxconn is located has been under a closed-loop system that cut off the plant from the rest of the world for 56 days.

China reported 21,439 new local COVID-19 infections on December 2. On November 7, slightly down from the previous day and down from a peak of 40,052 cases on November 1. 27. Cases have been on a downward trend recently as authorities across the country removed testing requirements.

China and Hong Kong Stocks Asian stock markets lifted on Thursday as these still-cautious steps toward reopening were seen giving the world’s second-largest economy a chance to regain momentum. Macau casino operators (.CSICESG10) it partly led the rally, finishing up 12.2%, sending its quarterly gain to 46.5%.

China’s yuan, which has also gained some ground against the dollar in recent weeks, was little changed on Thursday.

More generally, the change probably depressed economic growth for months to come as infections rise, bringing a rebound only later in 2023, the economists said.

That growth will continue to accelerate with the implementation of easing measures, Premier Li Keqiang was quoted as saying on Thursday by state media CCTV.


Shanghai, China’s most populous city, which endured one of the country’s longest and harshest lockdowns, on Thursday eliminated the need for COVID tests to enter restaurants or entertainment venues.

There has been no mention of China.”zero-covid“policy in recent announcements, raising suspicions that the term is dying out.

Senior officials have also been softening their tone on the dangers posed by the virus.

But, as they embraced the new, more relaxed controls, some cities urged residents to remain vigilant.

Some analysts and medical experts say China is unprepared for a big rise in infections, partly because of low vaccination rates among the vulnerable and its fragile health system.

Amid reports of panic buying of fever medicines, financial news outlet Yicai, citing third-party data, said the average daily sales volume of home test kits had risen more than 400 times since November.

“(China) may have to pay for its procrastination by adopting a ‘living with COVID’ approach,” Nomura analysts said in a note on Thursday.

Infection rates in China hover around just 0.13%, “far from the level needed for herd immunity,” Nomura said.

Feng Zijian, a former official with the China Center for Disease Control, told the China Youth Daily that up to 60% of China’s population could be infected in the first large-scale wave before stabilizing.

“Ultimately, about 80% to 90% of people will get infected,” he said.

The country will likely face a full-scale outbreak in the next one to two months, the state-run magazine China Newsweek reported on Thursday, citing health experts.

China’s current tally of 5,235 COVID-related deaths is a small fraction of its population of 1.4 billion, and extremely low by global standards. Some experts have warned that the toll could exceed 1.5 million if the exit is too hasty.

But, even with the dangers, for many there is an acceptance that life must go on.

“It’s impossible to kill this virus completely, maybe live with it and hope it turns into the flu,” said Yan, a 22-year-old jobless Beijing resident, who said he hoped further opening up of China’s economy would help him. . find a job.

Reporting by Ella Cao, Bernard Orr, Ryan Woo and Albee Zhang and Beijing writing and Brenda Goh in Shanghai; Written by John Geddie and Greg Torode; Edited by Simon Cameron-Moore, Toby Chopra and Nick Macfie

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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