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China's Zero-Covid Policy

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December 06, 2022

Why in news?

Nearly three years into the pandemic, China is sticking with a strict COVID-19 containment policy that has caused mounting economic damage and widespread frustration.

What is Zero-Covid?

  • Dynamic-zero - China’s zero-covid policy is not geared towards having zero cases at all times but about dynamically taking action when cases surface.
  • Dynamic-zero is two-pronged - prevention and containment.
  • Prevention - Prevention focuses on early detection through regular PCR tests.
  • Potential or suspected cases are isolated at home or placed under quarantine at a government-supervised facility.
  • Containment - Control tactics is aimed at swiftly cutting off transmission chains to prevent outbreaks.
  • It involve quarantining cases at government-supervised facilities and locking down buildings, communities or even entire cities.
  • Since March 2020, China's borders have remained shut to most visitors.
  • Some local authorities have taken extreme measures, such as forcing workers to sleep inside factories so they can work while quarantined.

What is the need for following such stringent restrictions?

  • New infections - New infections have been reported throughout China, but the worst affected cities have been Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Chongqing.
  • Vaccination rate among elderly - Overall, China says more than 90% of the population has been fully vaccinated.
  • However, less than half of people aged 80 and over have received three doses of vaccine.
  • Effectiveness of vaccines - There are doubts over whether the main vaccines used in China - Sinovac and Sinopharm - are effective against Omicron.
  • The World Health Organization has urged China to change its method of dealing with Covid.
  • However, Chinese President Xi Jinping has said the zero Covid policy is scientific and effective.

zerocovidWhat effect have zero covid policies had on China's economy?

  • Lockdowns - In recent months, lockdowns have taken place in several cities including Shenzhen (technology hub) and Shanghai (manufacturing, trade and financial hub).
  • The shutting of factories and ports for long periods have affected work with foreign companies.
  • Economic growth - China's economy has grown by only 3.9% over the past year, compared with its target of 5.5% for 2022.
  • Unemployment - Unemployment is rising, especially amongst young people, and the property market is weakening.
  • Supply chain - China's lockdown measures are also affecting businesses and consumers in the rest of the world, who rely on China for supplies of goods.
  • Factory closures have also led to fears of a shortage of toys ahead of Christmas.
  • Other effects - Anger over China's zero-Covid policy has sparked protests in major cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
  • There has been a nationwide protests calling for an end to lockdowns and greater political freedom.
  • China has rolled back its most severe Covid policies - including forcing people into quarantine camps - just a week after landmark protests against the strict controls.

 

References

  1. BBC│ What is China's zero Covid policy and what are its rules?
  2. Economic Times│ How does China's zero-Covid policy work?
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