Almost three years after the first people reported to Wuhan hospitals with an unknown lung disease, a large proportion of the 1.4 billion Chinese are still living with the consequences of the zero covid approach. In Beijing, restaurants, offices and parks are closed again. The only places where it is crowded are the test streets where the rows have been expanding for weeks.
Among the elderly waiting in a test Street in Wangjing, in the northeast of Beijing, support for the measures still seems to be strong. “We are doing well, our policy is successful,” says a pensioner, who is hooked up with his dog in line. “You don’t get sick in China.”Indeed, many people do not get sick, Corona deaths are still hardly to be regretted according to official statistics.
Of Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines, only 40 percent of people over the age of 80 in China have been boosted. Foreign vaccines have been banned. While Hong Kong has been pricking with the BioNTech vaccine for almost two years, in the rest of China for the time being only foreigners will have access to the vaccine known in the West as the Pfizer prick. While vaccines are also seen in China as an essential step towards reopening.
“Progress is being made in the fight against coronavirus in Chongqing, even though the number of Corona cases continues to rise,” said Vice Prime Minister and ‘chief covid’ Sun Chunlan recently. In addition to Chongqing, other megacities such as Guangzhou and Beijing are currently the hardest hit by the measures. “The situation remains complex and grim,” Sun said. An understatement, especially for the victims of the policy.
Such as in Zhengzhou, capital of Henan province. Baoliang and his two-month-old daughter were recently placed in a quarantine hotel after his wife tested positive for coronavirus. If the baby suffers from severe spitting up and diarrhea a little later, the emergency services are unable to intervene adequately, according to the Chinese news site Sohu.
Medics refuse to take the father and his little daughter at first, her situation is labeled as “not serious”. A positive rapid test from Baoliang further complicates the situation. If they manage to get to a hospital a few hours later, it is too late and the girl dies.
Also Li, not her real name, knows what it’s like to scream in the Chinese coviddesert. Just after midnight there is a knock on her door in Guangzhou. “I was about to go to bed,” says Li, who suffers from depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. “We had to get ready immediately and would be taken for quarantine.”
The road to that quarantine camp turns out to be a long one, doors remain closed because the right papers are missing. “It wasn’t until around ten in the morning that we arrived and were able to rest,” she sighs. The biggest problems have yet to begin: her medicines are running out. “I was emotionally broken.”
When a mission from her mother can’t reach her, she posts a distress call on social media. Dozens of calls from district doctors, a neighborhood committee and the police follow. “Their main goal was not to help me, but to get me to delete that post.”Li scribbled on top of it again, but that’s not true for everyone.
In recent months, a remarkable number of videos of alleged suicide attempts have appeared on social media. Because figures are kept secret, it is not possible to verify whether the number of suicides has actually increased since China’s lockdown policy.
In the meantime, a twenty-point plan has been launched that should provide more room for ‘tailoring’ in combating the epidemic. Close contacts of people who may have been in contact with an infected person are no longer quarantined in principle. There is also more room for shorter and smaller lockdowns and quarantine camps are more likely to give way to mandatory home quarantine.
But for local authorities, and for citizens, the signals from Beijing so far are mainly causing confusion. Fewer Tests and less drastic lockdowns, but at the same time sticking largely to ‘zero covid’ prove to be difficult to go together in practice. Shijiazhuang, not far from Beijing, experimented briefly with relaxations, but opted for the familiar instruments when the number of Corona cases increased further.
According to Business Bank Nomura, at least 400 million people in the country are now in some form of lockdown. There are no polls in China, but certainly in places where the hardest blows have fallen, such as in Shanghai, the frustration is great. In Guangzhou, people recently broke out of an area where a lockdown had been declared.
In Zhengzhou, where the world’s largest iPhone factory is located, employees have long been protesting against the deplorable working conditions and there are conflicts over promised bonuses. Today, police officers in white suits intervened there with tear gas and violence.