China zero-Covid policy: Censorship cleans up internet after top official speaks about timetable for Beijing

China zero-Covid policy: Censorship cleans up internet after top official speaks about timetable for Beijing
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Beijing Daily, the Chinese capital’s official Communist Party newspaper, previously said the city’s party chairman, Cai Qi, said on Monday, “Beijing will resolutely implement Covid-19 pandemic control measures over the next five years, ensuring the arrival of ‘zero-Covid’ imported cases and the recovery of domestic cases. prevention policy.

The reference to “the next five years” by Cai, a close ally of Chinese President Xi Jinping, sparked a massive backlash on Chinese social media. In response, Beijing Daily removed the line, calling it a “editing error”, while leaving its other statements regarding pandemic controls intact.

CNN reviewed the entire conversation, and while the Beijing Daily quote is misleading, Cai discussed at length the possibility of keeping zero Covid policies in place in the capital over the next five years.

According to state media Cai, the pandemic controls that will stay in place include routine PCR testing, strict entry rules, regular health checks in residential areas and public places, as well as strict monitoring and testing for people entering and leaving Beijing.

“I need to rethink whether I should stay in Beijing long term,” wrote one user on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform.

“What’s the point of being alive… for the next five years,” said another user.

Healthcare workers take swab samples to be tested for Covid-19 at a makeshift test site along a street in Beijing, May 11, 2022.

Weibo has since banned the hashtag “for the next five years” from its platform.

In early May, Xi doubled down on the zero Covid policy at a meeting of the Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee, the country’s top decision-making body, and ordered officials and all sectors of society to adhere to the government’s “decisions and plans”. leadership.

US Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns said at an online Brookings Institute event on June 16 that he expects China to hold its zero Covid policy in place until the “starting months of 2023,” based on signals from the Chinese government.

WHO chief censors China's internet after describing zero-Covid as unsustainable

For months, cities in China – including Beijing and Shanghai – have been put on full or partial lockdown due to the strict zero Covid policy, hurting economic activity and hurting the job market. In May, the unemployment rate for people aged 16-24 reached a record high of 18.4%.

China continues to close entire communities and cities due to only a handful of Covid cases. All positive cases and close contacts are sent to government quarantine.

But there are signs that China is relaxing its quarantine policy for international arrivals.

On Tuesday, the National Health Commission announced that travelers arriving in China from overseas will now be subject to seven days of central quarantine followed by three days of health monitoring at home – 14 days of central quarantine and seven days of home monitoring. required in advance. The Commission said that the new quarantine standards will also apply to close contacts of infected cases.

China reported 23 cases of locally transmitted Covid-19 nationwide on Sunday, with Beijing and Shanghai each recording four cases, according to the country’s National Health Commission.

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