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Rising cases dash hopes for relaxed Covid restrictions in China

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(TibetanReview.net, Nov26’22) – Despite the announcement earlier of a 20-point measure for easing the world’s most severe Covid lockdown policy, rising cases have led to China’s “iPhone City” of Zhengzhou in the central province of Henan being put under lockdown on Nov 25. The lockdown affects six million people in eight districts of the city and followed clashes between police and hundreds of workers furious over conditions and pay. Local authorities across the country are reported to be tightening zero-tolerance lockdown measures in the face of rising cases.

More than 20,000 workers left the iPhone plant on Nov 24 with payouts of $1,400 from Foxconn, reported Reuters, severely affecting production at the Taiwanese tech giant’s flagship iPhone plant.

Gruelling coronavirus restrictions are forcing desperate Chinese farmers to destroy their crops because they are unable to take their produce to the market, highlighting the heavy economic toll of stringent restrictions and the potential threat to food security, repotted the scmp.com Nov 26.

Farmers from provinces such as Henan, Gansu, Shandong and Hebei provinces have been forced to bulldoze fields of vegetables so they can sow seeds for the next crop, the report cited local media as reporting. No one could pick up the harvested crop and transport them to market.

In Shandong, for example, while consumers have paid nearly 10% more for vegetables since the end of October through early November, farmers have seen wholesale prices drop to nearly nothing, the report said, citing a survey from Xinfadi Market Supermarket in Beijing reported by Farmers’ Daily.

Over one-fifth of China’s total GDP under lockdown amid record Covid surge, a new report was stated to have found.

Beijing was stated to have urged local authorities to ease some virus curbs to stabilise economic growth, but in many rural areas roadblocks were seen to be common features, limiting the ability of trucks to travel through certain regions.

While vegetables are rotting due to logistics problems, the problem is – in essence – one of governance efficiency, Xiakedao, a publication affiliated with the overseas edition of China’s official People’s Daily was cited as saying.

***

Apart from the effect on the economy, people are increasingly blaming the restrictions – not the virus – for heartbreaking deaths that have sparked nationwide outrage on social media. Heart-renting stories of sick people being blocked from being promptly taken to a hospital, resulting in needless deaths, have caused nationwide outrages on social media. These ranged from the case of a 58-year-old grandfather in Beijing’s outskirt to that of a -year-old boy in the northwestern city of Lanzhou, both of whom died, as reported by the edition.cnn.com Nov 25.

Many more families, like theirs, have likely suffered similar tragedies outside the social media spotlight, the report said.

Across China, anger and frustration with zero-Covid has reached new heights and led to rare scenes of protest, as local authorities rushed to reintroduce restrictions amid record infections – despite a recent government announcement of a limited easing of some rules, the report noted.

These included, apart from Zhengzhou, the southern city of Guangzhou, where last week some residents revolted against an extended lockdown by tearing down barriers and marching down streets.

On Nov 24, in the sprawling metropolis of Chongqing in the southwest, a resident delivered a searing speech criticizing the Covid lockdown on his residential compound. “Without freedom, I would rather die!” the report quoted him as having shouted to a cheering crowd, who hailed him a “hero” and wrestled him from the grip of several police officers who had attempted to take him away.

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Earlier this month, the Chinese government released a 20-point guideline to limit the disruption of zero-Covid rules on daily life and the economy. It shortened quarantine from 10 to eight days for close contacts of infected people and for inbound travelers. It also scrapped quarantine requirements for secondary contacts, discouraged unnecessary mass testing drives and removed a major restriction on international flights.

But a surge in infections as China heads into its fourth winter of the pandemic is quickly dampening hopes of a pivot toward reopening. Instead of relaxing controls, many local officials are reverting to the zero-tolerance playbook, attempting to stamp out infections as soon as they flare up, noted the edition.cnn.com report.

Meanwhile China reported 35,183 new Covid-19 infections on Nov 25, of which 3,474 were symptomatic and 31,709 were asymptomatic, Reuters Nov 26 cited China’s National Health Commission as saying that day, setting a new high for the third consecutive day.

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