By Staff Writer
World attention is once again being focused on China over Covid-19, this time over the explosion in the number of cases following the Chinese government’s forced decision recently to ease its extremely restrictive lockdowns.
Official estimates indicate that some 250 million people, almost a fifth of the Chinese population, caught Covid in the first 20 days of December.
Early in December, the communist country where the outbreak of the pandemic was first traced in 2019, started rolling back its restrictions, the longest lasting and most severe globally.
But that only came after the country was swept by a wave of protests as people objected to the state-imposed limitations on their movement and the rigorous testing requirements which had been out in place closing down entire cities and states in some instances.
The nationwide protests were the most widespread since the 1989 Tiananmen protests which were limited to a single region.
Called the “zero Covid” restrictions, the measures were aimed at restricting the spread of the virus while much of the world opened up after extensive vaccination campaigns after the pandemic took a deadly toll worldwide.
China also faced criticism from some western nations for the severity of the restrictions and their perceived impact on human rights. However, within weeks of the curbs being lifted, China which has some of the lowest Covid-19 vaccination rates in the world, is again faced with a rapidly spreading wave of infections.
The British government is advising UK travellers to China to be aware of the current situation.
“China is currently experiencing its largest COVID-19 outbreak, and there may be an increased risk of infection. You should ensure you have a supply of medication for COVID-19 or flu-like symptoms. COVID-19 restrictions have been significantly relaxed, but some restrictions remain in place across mainland China. Even where restrictions have formally been lifted, local authorities and businesses may still require proof of a negative COVID-19 test result to access services. Although city-wide lockdowns have been lifted, further localised lockdowns may be imposed. You should check carefully before you travel, as local arrangements are liable to change at short notice.”
Some international media reports state that China’s National Health Commission (NHC) has stopped publishing daily Covid-19 data, amid concerns about the reliability of the figures after infections exploded in the wake of an abrupt easing of tough restrictions.
According to one global media outlet, ‘the sudden halt to the reporting of daily infection and death totals comes as concerns grow around the lack of vital information made available since Beijing made sweeping changes to its zero-Covid policy that put hundreds of millions of its citizens under lockdown and battered the world’s second-largest economy’.
It’s also reported that despite the record surge of infections, the NHC had reported no Covid deaths nationwide for four consecutive days before halting the data release. The Chinese government is said to have narrowed its definition of a Covid death, counting only those from Covid-caused pneumonia or respiratory failure.
In a special report, the Chinese state-controlled CGTN said that Chinese researchers are optimistic about the situation, with Omicron being the dominant virus for the time being.
It quotes one of the country’s leading epidemiologists as saying that the proportion of severe and critical cases of the disease among all confirmed cases in China has dropped from 16.47 per cent in 2020 to 3.32 per cent in 2021, and down to 0.18 per cent a few weeks ago.
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