China ‘zero-COVID’ policies spark mass protests


Virus Outbreak China Protest
In this photo taken on Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022, a protester is forced into a police car by the police, during a protest on a street in Shanghai, China. Authorities eased anti-virus rules in scattered areas but affirmed China’s severe “zero- COVID” strategy Monday after crowds demanded President Xi Jinping resign during protests against controls that confine millions of people to their homes. (AP Photo) AP

China ‘zero-COVID’ policies spark mass protests

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Demonstrations have broken out across China in a rare show of dissent over Chinese President Xi Jinping’s draconian “zero-COVID” policies that have stunted economic activity and forced millions into strict lockdowns over the past two years.

Thousands of protesters, including in China’s capital of Beijing and financial hub Shanghai, are calling for Xi to abandon the stringent measures as the strategy of eradicating COVID-19 through strict citywide lockdowns and mass testing campaigns appears to be failing.


China’s National Health Commission reported over 40,000 new COVID-19 infections on Sunday, one of the highest numbers tallied since the coronavirus was detected in Wuhan at the end of 2019.

China has maintained its “zero-COVID” approach since the beginning of the pandemic, going to great lengths to suppress COVID-19 cases, isolating people in their homes for weeks at a time, and shuttering businesses. Xi has defended the strategy as effective and scientific even as other countries ease many of their COVID-19 restrictions and return to life as it was prior to the pandemic.

Protests over the COVID-19 countermeasures boiled over last Thursday after 10 people died in a fire at a residential building in Urumqi, Xinjiang, a city that has been under lockdown for over 100 days, forcing many to remain in their homes. Videos circulating online of the incident led to claims that the COVID-19 measures delayed lifesaving efforts from first responders.

Mass demonstrations have now spread to other cities, including Wuhan, Beijing, and Nanjing. Widespread demonstrations in China are exceedingly rare, with authorities censoring social media posts and taking other actions to quell dissent.

Despite mounting protests, Chinese officials have given no indication they plan to reverse course, only recently loosening quarantine periods and tracking secondary COVID-19 contacts.

World health officials have encouraged China to change its methods, arguing that it should be focusing on boosting its vaccination numbers.

“I think it’s going to be very, very difficult for China to be able to contain this through their zero COVID strategy,” Ashish Jha, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said during an appearance on ABC’s This Week on Sunday. “I would recommend that they pursue the strategy of making sure everybody gets vaccinated, particularly their elderly. That, I think, is the path out of this virus. Lockdown and zero COVID is going to be very difficult to sustain.”


World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said earlier this year that the “zero-COVID” approach was not “sustainable.”

China could have some difficulty moving away from the policy after refusing to authorize foreign COVID-19 vaccines, opting instead to use ones developed domestically that may not be as effective against newer strains of the virus. Vaccination rates have also lagged, with just 40% of people older than 80 years old in China having received a booster shot, according to the Washington Post.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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