For one thing , in Guangzhou , restrictions have been lifted.
Authorities have abruptly lifted Covid restrictions in the Chinese city of Guangzhou, where protesters scuffled with police on Tuesday night, as police searched for demonstrators in other cities and the country’s top security body called for a crackdown on hostile forces.... On Wednesday afternoon, authorities suddenly announced a lifting of lockdowns in about half of the districts across the southern city of Guangzhou. Official announcements told local officials to variously remove temporary control orders and to redesignate areas as low risk. They also announced an end to mass PCR testing.... China’s foreign ministry says rights and freedoms must be exercised within the framework of the law... National health officials said on Tuesday that China would respond to urgent concerns raised by the public and that Covid rules should be implemented more flexibly, according to each region’s conditions... Economists and health experts, however, warn that Beijing cannot relax controls that keep most travellers out of China until tens of millions of older people are vaccinated. They say that means zero-Covid controls might not end for another year. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/nov/30/us-and-canada-urge-china-not-to-harm-zero-covid-protesters-amid-calls-for-crackdown
And also, to an extent, the lock down measures have been more medically effective, and not as economically disruptive as some might think.
The Zero Covid policy was actually not indefensible: Widely accepted numbers show that China, with 1.4 billion people, has suffered around 5,000 Covid deaths – which is about 800 times fewer per capita than the United States (and less than half the figure in Israel).
Yaqui Wang, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, argued that there was real anger at the economic consequences of the lockdowns – but while that is again doubtless true, the economic numbers (which one might actually question) show China’s economy growing at a more than 8% rate – which is lower than in the 2000s but higher than in recent years and, again, about 4 times higher than in the United States. https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/chinas-protests-are-not-just-about-covid/
The People's Republic of China faces hard choices going forward. I feel that its people should try to be considerate and bear with the the authorities , so far as they keep good faith with the well meaning concerns of the public, and that we foreigners should simply but out. What is going on in China, and how its government is handling things is an internal matter that shouldn't concern us. The powers that be will have to work things out with its people, in a measured manner. And even more so than public order, or even public health, public trust needs to be established, if the People's Republic is to endure.
The protests will put pressure on the regime to change its approach, but that may be easier said than done. China has been highly politically committed to its Covid policy, even as it has become less and less tenable. And the situation with its health system, population immunity and vaccine stocks is vastly different from ours, partly because of the choices it made earlier in the pandemic. China will have to face some form of living with Covid soon, and millions of lives – not to mention global economic stability – depend on how this happens. China was an early adopter of overwhelming measures to contain Covid. This involved recurrent lockdowns affecting millions, but also building isolation centres and hospitals very quickly, mass PCR testing, intensive contact tracing and surveillance, and mandatory masking. Some of the measures were incredibly draconian. Yet, despite the cost to civil liberties, it worked in stopping Covid-19 initially.
But then in 2021, several safe and effective vaccines were approved, which meant that widespread protection could be delivered to western populations. Take-up was remarkably high, and country after country, including maximum suppression countries such as New Zealand, Australia and South Korea, pivoted from containment to mass vaccination, access to antiviral therapies and living with Covid-19.
China, though, stayed with its strategy of elimination within its borders. The Chinese government did roll out its homegrown vaccine but took a different approach than the west. Its vaccination priority list focused on healthy young adults, and instead noted the side-effects of the vaccine to elderly groups. It didn’t promote the vaccine to elderly groups until November 2021, but by this time considerable vaccine scepticism had built up. Rising concerns about the low effectiveness of the non-mRNA Chinese vaccines were also a concern: studies indicated that protection faded fast and was undetectable after six months.
Recent reports suggest that only about 40% of over-80s have received a booster shot, and millions still remain unvaccinated. To put this in perspective, the overall booster rate was more than 90% in Japan while only 68% in China. And the Chinese government’s efforts to push vaccination have been met by a population used to zero-Covid messaging and having a false sense of security that they won’t ever be exposed to the virus, so why get vaccinated at all?
And population exposure has been minimal in China. It has had just under 1.5m infections in a population of 1.4 billion, and the national death toll is 5229. Compare this with England where the Financial Times estimates that more than 90% of the population has had Covid at least once. This hybrid wall of immunity in Britain has come at a major cost: the UK death rate stands at 2,400 per million, compared with just three deaths in a million in China.
All of this means that China’s population has a lower vaccination rate, with vaccines that appear less effective, than in most other countries. And many people don’t have any immunity gained from a previous infection either. If China gives up on containment and allows a large wave of infections, the country will take a huge loss of life given current vaccination levels: they are just too low in the most at-risk groups. This would overwhelm the already fragile Chinese healthcare system with too many patients who need care.
And the 2020 playbook isn’t working in 2022 in China, with a much more infectious version of the virus – Omicron – and a population fed up and tired of restrictions and constantly changing rules. Millions of businesses have had to shut down and the country has taken a major economic hit: the World Bank forecasts GDP growth in China of just 2.8%, behind the rest of the region’s average of 5.3%. This is the first time China’s GDP growth is less than its neighbours since 1990. Yet there are few signs the government will change tack for political and health system reasons.
Politically, the president, Xi Jinping, has projected a clear narrative of protecting China’s population through a zero-Covid policy and sees it as one of his successes. He defended the strategy vigorously at the recent Communist party congress, and any sudden policy shift may be seen as an admission of failure. And while there are increasing protests against restrictions, other parts of the country are calling for authorities to do everything to protect them from Covid. They’ve heard about the death toll in the western world and don’t want to be exposed to the virus.
The other concern of Chinese scientists and politicians is long Covid, which some feel has been underestimated in western countries. And you can understand this concern. An estimated 2 million people are suffering from long Covid in Britain and it is cited as one of the major reasons for the rising number of economically inactive people.
No matter what approach China takes, it needs to improve its vaccines. But to do this it will need access to mRNA technology, and this has been stuck at an impasse. Moderna has refused to transfer its technology to Chinese firms for manufacturing, instead eager to sell directly to a large market. China has instead worked to develop a homegrown mRNA vaccine but this has caused delays in rollout.
The countries that dealt most successfully with the pandemic, such as New Zealand, South Korea, Japan, Denmark and others, did it by successfully moving from containment in 2020 to mass vaccination and treatments in 2021 and 2022. This is the only sustainable exit from this pandemic and we’re likely to see China take this route eventually. It will need to get mRNA vaccines to the biggest priority groups quickly, and also bring an exhausted public along through what is likely to be a jarring shift in strategy – from no Covid at all, to Covid circulation with vaccine protection.
Let’s hope China makes this transition before it is forced, regardless of what the governments wants, to live with Covid before it is ready. China buckling under a wave of Covid would affect the entire world, not just disrupting economic stability but potentially creating new variants that could set progress back everywhere. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/nov/28/china-abandon-zero-covid-protests-mass-vaccination
I myself admittedly do not know how material conditions are faring in the PRC. I do however, for comparison, know from this one couple in Vietnam how its Communist ruled government has been addressing the issue of the Covid-19 , and I will post just a few from their extensive list of videos on the subject, for those who might be interested in hearing their thoughts on the matter.