China’s capital adjusts to life with Covid after policy reversal

Published December 8, 2022
<p>People line up outside a pharmacy to buy products, Covid-19 outbreaks continue in Beijing, December 8. — Reuters</p>

People line up outside a pharmacy to buy products, Covid-19 outbreaks continue in Beijing, December 8. — Reuters

The Chinese capital showed tentative signs of a return to normal on Thursday after a sudden reversal of a hardline pandemic policy that hammered the world’s second-biggest economy and ignited rare protests.

Beijing’s National Health Commission (NHC) on Wednesday announced a nationwide loosening of its zero-Covid restrictions, reducing the scope of mandatory testing, allowing some positive cases to quarantine at home, and ending large-scale lockdowns.

A major relaxation of President Xi Jinping’s flagship pandemic policy, the country’s top health body said the shift in tactics was intended to help the country “keep abreast of the changing times”.

In the capital, where a surge in cases had forced many to stay at home and kept businesses and schools shut, traffic was back to about half its usual intensity on Thursday, an AFP journalist said.

Under the new guidelines, the frequency and scope of PCR testing — long a tedious mainstay of life — have been reduced.

But while the number of testing stands around Beijing has decreased, those that remain are still busy, with many workplaces continuing to require negative tests.

“I’ve come for a test because someone in my office has tested positive. I hope I haven’t caught Covid,” 28-year-old Chen Min, wrapped in a down jacket, told AFP.

Others said they had come to be tested because they work in the hotel and catering industry, where testing remains obligatory.

Zhang Lan, a food delivery driver, said he needed to be tested because “it’s a request from the company” to avoid contaminating customers.

At a nearby shopping centre, businesses were open but crowds were sparse, with guards checking visitors’ health codes though no longer requiring negative Covid tests.

‘Very quiet’

“It’s very quiet. I think people are still afraid to go out,” the manager of a Starbucks said.

China is now steeling for a wave of infections expected to follow the relaxation of the rules — with one previous estimate suggesting more than a million people could die.

At one fever clinic in Beijing’s Chaoyang district, an AFP reporter saw lines that snaked around the block.

And in another part of the capital, AFP saw a steady stream of customers going into a local pharmacy for cold and fever medicine.

“But we’re out of stock of this type of medicine. We don’t even have any Vitamin C left,” Sun Qing, an employee, said.

She added that, over the past few days, people had been buying up the drugs in anticipation of a policy easing.

“Some of them unfortunately took much more than they needed. It could be enough for a year!” she exclaimed.

Opinion

Editorial

Losing grip
Updated 29 Jan, 2023

Losing grip

The state and the government are responsible for providing Imran with the security he deserves as a former prime minister.
Telling silence
Updated 29 Jan, 2023

Telling silence

THE silence of the Sindh government over the recent exposé in this paper about Karachi’s water tanker mafia ...
Palestine escalation
29 Jan, 2023

Palestine escalation

THE fire of conflict once again threatens to envelop the land of Palestine, as the growing cycle of violence refuses...
IMF package
Updated 28 Jan, 2023

IMF package

While it is crucial to seek immediate IMF funding to shore up its reserves, the govt shouldn’t focus only on short-term relief.
Dar unpegged
28 Jan, 2023

Dar unpegged

IT is over. Nearly four months after Ishaq Dar descended on the cash-strapped economy with some decidedly outlandish...
Lurking hazards
28 Jan, 2023

Lurking hazards

OVERSIGHT of illegal industrial activity occurring within residential areas in the country is weak, especially in...