‘Zero Covid’ Policy Could Last Five Years, Beijing’s Top Communist Official Reportedly Says

© Xinhua; Li JiananMedical workers take swab samples for COVID-19 tests at a testing site in Zhengzhou, central China's Henan Province, Jan. 7, 2022.
Medical workers take swab samples for COVID-19 tests at a testing site in Zhengzhou, central China's Henan Province, Jan. 7, 2022. - Sputnik International, 1920, 27.06.2022
Weeks after Chinese President Xi Jinping insisted that “persistence is victory,” the top Communist official in Beijing’s municipal government reportedly said that the Chinese capital city will maintain its “Zero Covid” policy for another five years.
According to media reports, the newspaper Beijing Daily published a story on Monday afternoon quoting Cai Qi, the Communist Party of China’s secretary in Beijing and a former mayor of the city.
“In the next five years, Beijing will unremittingly grasp the normalization of epidemic prevention and control,” the story originally quoted Cai as saying, according to the UK Guardian.

Now, the article only says the city will “make unremitting efforts to normalize epidemic prevention and control” to “control quickly and resolutely block the transmission channels of the epidemic.”

It goes on to note the various efforts that must be improved, including a “normalized nucleic acid testing and key screening” process, regularizing cleaning and inspection of public spaces, and controlling entry and exit of the vast city of 21.5 million, which is deeply connected with the surrounding Hebei Province and nearby coastal metropolis of Tianjin.
A restaurant chef gets their throat swab taken at a coronavirus testing site, Sunday, April 3, 2022, in Beijing. COVID-19 cases in China's largest city of Shanghai are still rising as millions remain isolated at home under a sweeping lockdown. - Sputnik International, 1920, 13.06.2022
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China adopted the “Zero Covid” policy in 2021, when the arrival of the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, brought an increasingly stubborn new outbreak. However, the principles underlying it - that mass lockdowns, with logistical networks funneling food, supplies and medicine to residents under quarantine while medical workers test the entire population for infection - were forged in early 2020, when China fought off the world’s first outbreak of the virus.
Throughout 2021, the policy was extremely successful, limiting mainland China to just two COVID-19 deaths that year. By comparison, at least 415,000 Americans died of the virus in 2021.
However, it wasn’t until early 2022 that the Omicron variant, even more infectious than Delta and with a penchant for causing asymptomatic cases, really put China’s “Zero Covid” policy to the test. Between the beginning of April and the beginning of June, the Chinese government spent some $26 billion on COVID-19 tests as huge cities like Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Xi’an were placed in lockdown for weeks at a time and their tens of millions of residents tested several times in an attempt to track down, isolate and treat all cases of the disease.
A mother, with her newborn baby, waits with other new mothers to get inoculated with a dose of the Covaxine Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine at a government children hospital in Chennai on June 16, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 23.06.2022
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Despite its success at preventing mass death among its 1.4 billion people, the Chinese government has been extensively criticized by the West, which has variously accused them of lying about the extent of the outbreak, terrorizing its population with the lockdowns, and claiming that the policy in unsustainable. When World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus suggested in May that China would be better off if it abandoned “Zero Covid,” Beijing fired back.
“The purpose [of Zero Covid] is solely to protect people’s life and health to the greatest extent possible and underpin sustained, sound and steady economic and social development,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at the time. “In China, we have the foundation, the conditions and the capability to achieve dynamic zero-COVID. We have every confidence in winning this hard battle and making greater contributions to the united global response.”
A study published in May by researchers at Shanghai’s Fudan University and at Indiana University in the United States warned that if China’s “Zero Covid” policy were removed and the respiratory virus allowed to spread unimpeded across Chinese society - as has happened in most other countries - it would “generate a tsunami of Covid-19 cases” that would kill at least 1.5 million people.
Just over 5,200 people in China have died of COVID-19 since it appeared in late 2019, while about 6.3 million have died globally, including 1 million in the United States.
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