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  • Aanya M.

The end of zero-Covid. What will happen next?


Key Points

  • The Chinese government announced it will drop its harsh Covid policy, due to many protesters speaking up against it. Protesters were triggered due to a fire in a high-rise block in the western Xinjiang region that killed 10 people. Many think that the city's long-standing Covid prohibitions played a role in the fatalities

  • China's restrictions have aided in reducing case numbers, but as a result, few individuals have gained natural immunity, which has sparked fear of reopening, should cases increase and officials feel pressured to reimpose restrictions

  • Predictions that the number of cases in China would peak around April 1, 2023, and approach 322,000 deaths. By then ⅓ of China’s population will be infected. With millions of elders unvaccinated, and underfunded hospitals, this is a concern.



After the Chinese government announced that it will drop its harsh Covid policy, many Chinese citizens thanked the demonstrators who had boldly spoken out against the onerous restrictions. After three grueling years, people in China could finally try to resume their normal lives.


The unrest was triggered by a fire in a high-rise block in the western Xinjiang region that killed 10 people last week. Although the officials dispute this, many people think that the city's long-standing Covid prohibitions played a role in the fatalities. Days of sizable protests in several places were sparked by it; they did subsequently subside under a significant police presence. However, due to the protests, China has gotten rid of its ‘zero-covid’ policy.


Many are shocked the protests were successful, due to China’s long-running history of shutting down protesters. The Tiananmen Square protests were student-led demonstrations in 1989 calling for democracy, free speech, and a free press in China. After Hu Yaobang, a former leader of the Communist Party who had labored to bring about political reform in China, passed away in April 1989, pro-democracy demonstrators first marched through Beijing to Tiananmen Square. The students demanded a more transparent, democratic administration across the country as they mourned Hu. Eventually, thousands more others joined the students in Tiananmen Square, and by mid-May, tens of thousands of people were participating in the demonstration. The Tiananmen Square Massacre, which took place on June 4 and 5, 1989, saw the Chinese authorities end the demonstrations. Due to these instances, along with many others, some are skeptical.


China's restrictions have aided in reducing case numbers, but as a result, few individuals have gained natural immunity, which has sparked fear of reopening, should cases increase and officials feel pressured to reimpose restrictions. Due to this fear many shops and restaurants are left deserted. In an interview with state media, leading epidemiologist Zhong Nanshan stated that the Omicron strain of the virus that is common in China was extremely contagious and might cause an increase in cases.


"The (current) Omicron mutation... is very contagious... one person can transmit to 22 people," said Zhong. "Currently, the epidemic in China is... spreading rapidly, and under such circumstances, no matter how strong the prevention and control is, it will be difficult to completely cut off the transmission chain."


Since the restrictions on Covid were lifted, China's national health authority has not yet recorded any official Covid deaths. Currently, the last official deaths were reported on Dec. 3. Total pandemic fatalities stand at 5,235. New predictions from the U.S.-based Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation state that the number of cases in China would peak around April 1, 2023, and approach 322,000 deaths. By then, a third of China's population will be infected, according to Christopher Murray, director of IHME. China is facing a surge it is not ready to handle, with millions of elders not fully vaccinated, and underfunded hospitals, which lack the capacity to deal with large amounts of patients.


Many are now wondering, what will China do. If cases are said to peak by April 2023, China's economy will take a hit soon enough. One that could be bigger than what happened during zero-covid.


A majority of people in China don’t know someone who has had Covid. Which differs from America in that most people don’t know someone who hasn’t had Covid. Even so, people have lost their once-existent respect for the ‘zero-covid’ policy. One may wonder, are there any malicious intentions that came with zero-covid? Perhaps not, as many still believe it was based on good intentions: to protect the health and lives of the public. Even so, the examples of the harm of zero-covid are too many to list. Before the protests, the Chinese population was always extremely resentful, and local officials struggled to maintain this policy.


So the question is, why did Xi Jinping just now get rid of zero-covid? He had always preached to measure one's governance by whether or not the people are satisfied, and people have been unsatisfied for months. I believe it is because he always had in mind the direct goal of zero-covid: to stop the spread of Covid. During his visit to Wuhan in June, Xi declared: "If you see the overall picture, our measures to prevent the pandemic are the most economical and the most effective.” Some fear that once case numbers spark and the economy takes a hit, the government will be quick to go back to zero-covid. All of China, across all economic stratas, was united on one topic, get rid of ‘zero-covid.’ Seeing a whole country protesting together is not an everyday occurrence, as you often see nations divided.


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