China reportedly postpones important economic meeting amid COVID surge symptoms

China reportedly postpones important economic meeting amid COVID surge symptoms
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  • Beijing abandons essential tools of ‘zero COVID’ regime
  • Changes follow last month’s historic protests
  • Opening up leads to fear of the infection spreading

SHANGHAI/HONG KONG, Dec 13 (Reuters) – Chinese leaders reportedly postponed a key economic policy meeting amid growing signs that COVID-19 infections are on the rise, nearly a week after Beijing lifted some of the world’s strictest restrictions to curb the spread of the virus. virus.

President Xi Jinping and other Politburo members and senior government officials, expected to attend The Central Economic Labor Conference, likely to be held behind closed doors this week, to chart a policy course for the embattled Chinese economy in 2023.

A report by Bloomberg News on Tuesday night, citing sources close to the matter, stated that the meeting was postponed and there was no timetable for rescheduling.

Policy experts and business analysts said the leadership is expected to plan. other stimulus steps and discuss highly anticipated growth targets during the annual three-day session.

The delay came as authorities continued to disrupt the previously committed “zero COVID” policy advocated by Xi.

Long queues form Although official numbers of new cases have fallen in recent weeks as authorities have reduced testing, there is an alarming sign that a wave of infections is forming outside fever clinics.

And companies in China, from e-commerce giant to cosmetics brand Sephora, rush to minimize the impact of increased infections – distributing test kits, encouraging more work from home and, in some cases, providing truckloads of medicine.

The signs come as China is rapidly trying to adapt to a world that has largely reopened, following unprecedented public protests against the drastic mass lockdowns in the third year of the epidemic.

The protests were the strongest public challenge during Xi’s decade as president and came amid growth figures for China’s $17 trillion economy, the world’s second largest economy, some of the worst in the last 50 years.

Despite spreading infections, people in China welcomed Tuesday’s withdrawal of a state-mandated app used to track whether they’ve traveled to areas hit by COVID.

While authorities disabled the “travel code” app at midnight on Monday, China’s four telecom companies said they would delete users’ data associated with the app.

On the social media platform Weibo, people applauding the end of a practice that critics fear could be used for mass surveillance of the public said, “Bye bye to the trust program code, I hope to never see you again.”

Another user wrote, “The hand outstretched to use force during the epidemic must now be withdrawn.”

Chinese healthcare company as another sign of policy relaxation started selling Pfizer’s Paxlovid for the treatment of COVID-19 in China via its app – the drug was previously only available in some hospitals.

According to the platform’s customer service, it sold out just half an hour after the listing was reported by local media.

Despite all the relief last week from the government’s decision to start lifting its zero-COVID-19 policy, there are fears that China may now pay a price.

Infections are expected to increase further next month during the Chinese New Year holidays, when people travel across the country to be with their families – after prolonged isolation in isolation and relatively low vaccination rates among the elderly, who lack “herd immunity”, according to some analysts.

China’s fragile healthcare system, experts say can get bored quickly if these fears come true.

Moves to loosen COVID curbs last week included removing mandatory testing before many public events and reining in quarantine.

Famous Chinese commentator Hu Xijin, a former editor-in-chief of the nationalist state tabloid newspaper Global Times, said Beijing is now the epicenter of a rapid new wave of infections, but the city has the resources to cope.

“The rate of new infections is truly astonishing, and I believe what we are witnessing here must be one of the most severe rates of virus transmission in the world since the start of the COVID pandemic,” Hu said.


Beijing’s envoy to the US said on Monday that he believes China’s COVID-19 measures will be further relaxed in the near future and international travel to the country will increase. It also makes it easier.

China has almost completely closed its borders to international travel since the pandemic that broke out in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019. International flights remain at a fraction of pre-pandemic levels and arrivals face eight days in quarantine.

Financial hub Hong Kong, which already has less stringent border controls than mainland China, said on Tuesday it will lift the requirement for arriving travelers to avoid bars and restaurants. within three days of arrival.

It will be in Hong Kong shelve the mobility tracking app Chief Executive Officer, John Lee, who manages access to restaurants and venues such as gyms, clubs, and lounges.

While the lifting of controls is expected to brighten longer-term global growth prospects, analysts say a wave of infections from Chinese businesses in the coming weeks will create staff shortages and makes consumers cautious.

Chinese stocks (.CSI300) It fell on Tuesday as a recent recovery fueled by reopening hopes gave way to concerns about the spread of infections. The yuan currency has changed little, but is experiencing its worst year since 1994, when China combined official and market exchange rates.

News by Bernard Orr and Ethan Wang from Beijing, Brenda Goh and Shen Yiming from Shanghai, and Farah Master from Hong Kong; Written by John Geddie and Greg Torode; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore, Nick Macfie and Mark Heinrich

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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