Despite the “Zero Covid” strategy, Covid-19 cases are increasing in China
Three years after the first cases of Covid-19 were detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, the country remains in a health crisis. Beijing reported its highest number of new cases in six months on Monday, November 7, despite multiple lockdowns disrupting the economy and daily life. The Ministry of Health announced about 5,500 new contaminations, including a large part in the coastal Guangdong province (South), a major manufacturing center.
The recovery from this epidemic is certainly far below what many countries are experiencing. However, this weekend health authorities expressed hope for a relaxation of the “zero Covid” policy, stressing that it will continue despite residents’ fatigue. This strategy involves curtailing neighborhoods or entire cities as cases emerge, conducting mass screenings or quarantining people who test positive. These restrictions are sometimes accompanied by poor access to food or medical care and the difficulty of commuting, which wears away at the Chinese’s patience.
Restriction dramas happen regularly. The self-defensive suicide of a 55-year-old woman in the landlocked city of Hohhot in northern Inner Mongolia made headlines this weekend because, by the authorities’ own admission, sanitary regulations prevented a rescue intervention. The entrance doors to the apartment building were sealed to prevent entry and exit. Unfortunately, the two daughters nevertheless warned the authorities that their mother suffered from anxiety and was considering suicide.
A few days ago, a 3-year-old child died of carbon monoxide suffocation in Lanzhou, the limited capital of Gansu Province (Northwest). In a message posted online, but now deleted, the father accused the agents responsible for the detention application of blocking his access to the hospital. After that, the district administration apologized.
First decline in exports since 2020
A radical strategy against the epidemic is also a brake on activity and consumption, which has harmful effects on the economy. Zhengzhou (Central), the world’s largest iPhone factory, is still limited. Website “Currently operating at significantly reduced power” and this disruption will cause delivery delays, the American group Apple admitted on Sunday.
The country’s exports fell for the first time since May 2020 amid health restrictions and the threat of a global recession, according to official figures. China’s exports fell 0.3% year-on-year last month, according to customs data released on Monday. In September, exports increased again by 5.7% year-on-year. The threat of recession in the United States and Europe, together with the increase in the prices of energy carriers, weakens the demand for Chinese products.
Logically, imports from China also decreased in October (-0.7% year-on-year) after a slight increase of 0.3% a month ago. The last drop in imports came in March, shortly before Shanghai was locked down. China’s trade surplus was still at $85.15 billion (85.64 billion euros) in October, but this level is well below July’s record amount (101.2 billion).
Despite the results in action, Chinese President Xi Jinping last month reaffirmed the validity of the “zero Covid” health policy. China will stick “no doubt” to that strategy, health authorities said again on Saturday after several days of speculation about his relief.