Strict Covid policy spurs protests in China amid surge in cases

Published November 27, 2022
Workers in protective gear ride through Beijing on Saturday.—AFP
Workers in protective gear ride through Beijing on Saturday.—AFP

BEIJING: As China grapples with a surge in Covid-19 cases despite its strict ‘zero-Covid’ policy, the anger at the country’s hardline approach to containing the virus has intensified, prompting protests in at least two cities, including Urumqi and Beijing.

China, which remains the last major economy wedded to a zero-Covid strategy, recorded 34,909 new domestic infections on Saturday, AFP reported while quoting the National Health Commission.

As the infections spread to numerous cities, authorities enforced lockdowns on movement and business.

Protests broke out in the northwest Xinjiang region after ten people were killed and nine injured when a fire ripped through a building in the regional capital Urumqi on Thursday night, according to state news agency Xinhua.

Over 34,000 cases recorded; lockdown being blamed for deaths in building fire; Pakistan sees 27 new cases

The residents couldn’t escape as doors were clamped shut with iron wiring, AFP has reported. However, the officials have denied the allegations.

Some videos appeared to show crowds of people taking to the streets of Urumqi to protest against the measures.

Footage shows hundreds of people massing outside the Urumqi city government offices, chanting: “Lift lockdowns!” In another clip, dozens of people are seen marching through a neighbourhood in the east of the city, shouting slogans before facing off with a line of hazmat-clad officials and angrily rebuking security personnel.

Videos showed people in a plaza singing China’s national anthem with its lyric, “Rise up, those who refuse to be slaves!” while others shouted that they wanted to be released from lockdowns, Reuters reported.

Urumqi police said in a Friday post on Weibo that they had detained a woman sur-named Su for “spreading online rumours” relating to the number of casualties from the blaze.

An initial investigation showed the blaze to have been caused by a board of electric sockets in the family bedroom of one of the apartments, according to state broadcaster CCTV. Urumqi mayor Maimaitiming Kade offered a rare formal apology for the blaze at the briefing, according to the broadcaster.

In Beijing, some residents under lockdown staged small-scale protests or confronted officials over movement restrictions. A separate video shared with Reuters showed Beijing residents in an unidentifiable part of the city marching around an open-air car park on Saturday, shouting “End the lockdown”.

Shanghai tightened testing requirements on Saturday for entering venues such as museums and libraries, requiring people to present a negative Covid test taken within 48 hours, down from 72 hours earlier.

Pakistan detects new cases

Meanwhile, Pakistan on Saturday detected 27 new cases of Covid-19 in the past 24 hours, according to PPI.

However, no death was reported.

According to the National Institute of Health, 7,183 tests were conducted in the past 24 hours and the positivity ratio was recorded at 0.38 per cent with 727 active cases.

Sinvce Nov 1, the country has recorded over 20 cases every day other than Nov 20 when 17 cases were reported.

Published in Dawn, November 27th, 2022

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