The Chinese government’s new COVID policy is causing public concern as infections rise

Since the Chinese government enacted a new “Twenty Measures” policy to ease COVID-19 restrictions on November 11, its abandonment of the zero-COVID policy has caused confusion and concern among people.

Although the government still claims to be committed to a zero-COVID policy, the relaxation of measures such as mass testing, contact tracing and quarantine protocols in the Twenty Steps clearly signals the beginning of a shift in policy.

A man and a child wait in line at a coronavirus testing site in Beijing on November 22, 2022. [AP Photo/Andy Wong] [AP Photo/Andy Wong]

At the same time, the rapid rise in infections in the world’s most populous country has fueled uncertainty and debate after nearly three years in which a zero-covid policy has repeatedly stifled transmission.

‘Measure Twenty’ includes restrictions on the ability of local governments to impose lockdowns, as well as reducing quarantine times for close contacts of infected people, easing the country’s travel restrictions to and within China and ending secondary contact tracing.

Although it served as a national guiding policy, the “Twenty Measures” were first fully implemented in Shijiazhuang, the capital of Hebei Province. This city of 11 million people near Beijing has become the first testing ground for the reopening policy.

China’s ruling class and many media outlets were the first to sound the alarm, with some statements even comparing the policy shift during the civil war against Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang to the “liberation of Shizhuang in 1947.”

Even according to official data, the number of cases has increased significantly after the easing of restrictions. On November 9, Shijiazhuang reported only 59 asymptomatic cases, but on November 13, the number increased to 3 new confirmed cases and 541 asymptomatic cases without a decrease for three consecutive days.

Many mass media paid attention to this extraordinary “achievement”. But it was debated and ridiculed on social networks.

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