After taming social discontent on the streets with the massive presence of agents and control of social networks, the Chinese authorities are progressively softening their rigid anti-covid stance by relaxing some restrictions in several cities in the face of the "new situation" pandemic that they are experiencing. the country, as announced by Vice Premier Sun Chunlan.
In Beijing, some shopping centers in the Chaoyang district reopened their doors on Thursday despite the fact that the capital is facing the largest outbreak of coronavirus in its history.
There is also news that some neighborhoods in the capital have begun to allow some infected people considered vulnerable - pregnant or elderly, among others - to quarantine at home for the duration of the infection. This is a considerable change with respect to the policies in force until now, which forced positives to isolate themselves during their illness in one of the government centers set up for it.
Local authorities in southern megacities such as Guangzhou and Shenzhen also proclaimed the withdrawal of various restrictions and the partial opening of several districts, where certain close contacts of infected people will be allowed to confine themselves at home. The announcement came after Guangzhou recorded violent clashes between protesters and riot police on Wednesday night due to discontent generated by anti-covid policies.
For its part, the city of Chengdu, with 16 million inhabitants, decided that its residents do not have to show a negative PCR test to enter their residences. A relaxation of the measures was also reported in Shanghai and Zhengzhou, where workers at the Foxconn plant, the world's largest iPhone assembler, staged violent riots last week over labor disputes and complaints about the handling of quarantines at the facilities. factory.
None of these ads mentioned the protests against zero covid policies that took place in large cities across the country over the past weekend. But the timing of its approval suggests that the government headed by President Xi Jinping has taken note of the discontent and is trying to calm public anger after shouting against the Communist Party or its leader was even heard at those rallies.
Along these lines, Vice Prime Minister Sun Chunlan, in charge of supervising the country's efforts against covid, declared this Wednesday that with the decrease in the pathogenicity of the omicron variant, the increase in the vaccination rate and the experience accumulated over the years, the containment of the pandemic has entered a “new situation”.
Famous for making an appearance in those cities that were suffering a regrowth to urge strong confinements and restrictions, the senior official now called for new efforts "to optimize" the response against the covid.
The state press also reflected the change in trend. The nationalist newspaper Global Times, which has routinely warned against the dangers of the virus and its deadly consequences in Western countries for almost three years, published a text on Thursday in which national experts assured the public that there is no need to panic about the omicron variant as it is much less deadly than its predecessors.
The weekend protests come at a time when the country is experiencing its worst outbreak since the virus emerged in Wuhan almost three years ago (36,000 new cases at the last count) and pose a challenge for Xi, who has made of the policy of zero tolerance one of the fundamental pillars to legitimize his government.
With a view to speeding up the reopening of the country, the authorities also announced this week that they will redouble their efforts to increase the vaccination rate of the elderly. Despite being one of the sectors most vulnerable to the pathogen, many are reluctant to receive injections, and only 65% of those over 80 years of age have received the vaccine, a figure that drops to 40% for booster doses.
While all these announcements are taking place, the country is preparing to pay its last farewell to former President Jiang Zemin, who passed away this Wednesday at the age of 96. Although there are still no details on how or when his funeral will take place, analysts say there is a tradition in China of using public mourning events like this one for citizens to express their discontent with the authorities.