Beijing chief says city to ‘maintain zero-COVID policy for next five years’ – before time reference removed | World News
Beijing said the city would persist with its zero-COVID policies “over the next five years”, although it quickly removed reference to a time period in the announcement.
Beijing Daily, a state run newspaper, quoted Cai Qi, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) secretary of Beijing, as saying that the city “will maintain its pandemic control policy for the next five years”.
Shortly after the article was published, and had started spreading rapidly on social media, reference to the time period was removed.
It was unclear why the amendment was made. It is possible that the mention of “five years” was a standard reference to the start of the next five-year planning period, which begins on 1 July.
But the rapid spread of the news on social media, and the subsequent retraction, show the anxiety around how long China will pursue its zero-COVID policy.
More than two years into the pandemic, China is the only major country committed to eradicating outbreaks of the virus.
The policy has meant that China has officially recorded just 5,226 deaths. But the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned the strategy is not sustainable.
Cai Qi said that Beijing would stick to the “dynamic zero-COVID” policy, improve regular PCR testing and ask all public places to strictly check people’s health kits – dynamic QR codes based on testing and travel history that determine whether a person can go about their daily life, or should be quarantined.
‘Persistence is victory’
Beijing has succeeded in controlling a sustained Omicron outbreak, which led to the closure of schools, parks, restaurants and gyms. Most facilities are open and primary and secondary pupils today returned to work.
Shanghai is slowly returning to a semblance of normality after a harsh extended lockdown – some restaurants will allow customers to return this week.
But President Xi Jinping this month said that “persistence is victory” in the fight against COVID and there are no signs that China will abandon its policies – especially ahead of an important political meeting, scheduled for the autumn, where Xi is expected to claim a third term as president and as general secretary of the CCP.
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But there are no signs of a change in policy even after that. China’s vaccination rate has slowed, to below 800,000 a day, as officials focus on lockdowns and quarantines instead.
Only about 64% of Chinese people over 60 have received three doses of a vaccine and there are fears that existing immunity may be waning, as most were vaccinated in 2021.
The US ambassador to China has said that he expects the zero-COVID policy will extend at least into 2023.
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