This is how China’s no-covid policy is changing

It was a confusing time. Instead of a single top-down decision from Beijing to roll back no-covid policies, there have been multiple independent decisions announced by local governments in the last week., mainly about canceling mandatory PCR tests and reopening businesses. However, they sometimes contradict each other and many Chinese cities are tightly controlled.

Many are celebrating that China has finally begun to pursue a covid response, emphasizing vaccines and treatments rather than isolation and blockade, as the latter’s strategies have hit the economy hard. Chinese economy. But doubts are starting to grow due to the lack of clear messages from superiors.

So, in this newsletter, I will do my best to summarize and explain the different policies.

Speculation begins with a vaguely worded top-level speech. On November 30, Sun Chunlan, China’s vice-premier, who has been dubbed the “non-covid tsar”, said at a meeting in Beijing that China’s pandemic control was “faced with new situations and new tasks” where the omicron variant takes center stage. She did not mention “dynamic zero,” China’s overall policy of eliminating localized outbreaks at any cost—thus signaling a shift in work.

In response, at least three other provinces and 13 cities, including China’s most economically developed regions, announced changes to their local covid control rules as of Monday. , December 5.

Although the language is confusingly different, these changes are primarily aimed at one goal: mass PCR testing.

Since May 2020, when Wuhan was able to test its entire population of more than 10 million people in a 10-day period, China has been conducting mass PCR testing campaigns. The frequency of these campaigns has increased this year as omicrons spread, and many cities have introduced mandatory screenings of every citizen every two or three days. Without a recent negative test result, people will be barred from activities such as using public transport or even entering shops, which becomes a significant burden on the lives of people. their daily lives.

That is finally changing. Many local governments are now replacing the mandatory PCR tests with a new regime called “愿检尽检” or “Whoever wants to be tested can test”. Requirements for negative PCR test results are being lifted across China. Cities like Tianjin have eliminated it for public transport, while it has been removed in Shanghai to enter most public places and Beijing has even given up on buying drugs at pharmacies.

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