What is China's Zero-COVID policy? 193 million people under full or partial lockdown- Know Impact

China has placed Shanghai, a city of 25 million people, under a strict lockdown to control its worst COVID-19 outbreak.

Created On: Apr 13, 2022 15:45 ISTModified On: Apr 15, 2022 12:45 IST
China puts 193 million people under full or partial lockdown
China puts 193 million people under full or partial lockdown

China's President Xi Jinping reiterated his backing for his government’s “zero COVID” approach on April 14, 2022 despite growing criticism. He stated that prevention and control work cannot be relaxed and virus control measures must be strictly implemented, adding that “the antivirus campaign must minimise economic and social impact.” 

This comes as almost 26 million residents in Shanghai remain confined to their apartments under strict restrictions amid persisting concerns over acute food shortages as well as access to medicines for those suffering from ailments. Several residents have complained of food shortages, as they are not allowed to leave their homes even to buy essential items and authorities are struggling to supply millions of residents.

Shanghai is battling China's worst COVID-19 outbreak since the emergence of the virus in late 2019 with the Covid-19 cases reaching record high of more than 27,000 despite more than two weeks of a stringent lockdown. China is the only country that is following a Zero-Covid policy even now with an approach of mass lockdowns and testing to eliminate cases. China also remains isolated from the rest of the world with tight travel restrictions.

Initially, a four-day lockdown was announced in Pudong in Eastern Shanghai in later March, which was then extended to the entire city in April with little certainty on when it will be lifted. While there are reports of China easing measures in some parts of the city, as per officials, the lockdown will be lifted if there were no positive cases for 14 days.

Overall, China has reported 1.68 lakh cases and around 4,600 deaths since the COVID-19 outbreak was first detected in Wuhan. The country was able to bring its COVID numbers under control by using stringent public health measures including putting entire cities under a complete lockdown. 

Indian Consulate General in Shanghai to remain inaccessible in person

The Consulate General of India in Shanghai will remain inaccessible and will not be in a position to provide consular services in person as the city of Shanghai continues to remain sealed and controlled in different degrees by the Shanghai Municipal People's Government, said the Indian Embassy in Beijing. 

The statement further read that the Consulate will remain operational in remote mode and can be reached for a consular emergency at Mobile no- +86 189 3031 4575/ 183 1716 0736

The Indian citizens in Eastern China Region have been urged to apply at the Embassy of India in Beijing for availing of urgent consular services. 

Read Full Statement Below

What is China's Zero-Covid policy?

While several countries across the world have gradually relaxed their COVID restrictions, urging citizens that they will have to learn to live with the COVID-19 virus, China follows a strict Zero-Covid policy.

China's Zero-Covid policy involves using aggressive policies and measures if necessary to control and eliminate local transmission of the COVID-19 virus. China remains determined to mitigate and control COVID-19 outbreaks in the country, even smaller ones, by using extremely harsh measures affecting public life and raising discontent internationally. 

A spike in COVID cases recently led China to place over 193 million people across at least 23 cities in full or partial lockdown, including its financial hub Shanghai. 

While China's initial efforts to curb local transmission through lockdown measures were successful, the highly transmissible Omicron variant that has caused the present wave poses a challenge to the policy. 

Impact of China's Zero-Covid policy

  • China's measures to control the virus cases and stop local transmission have been deemed as Draconian, denying people access to essential health care and food. 
  • Several major cities have come to a halt with residents confined to their houses with limited availability of food and other resources. 
  • China drastically cut international travel by cancelling visas and restricting flights since 2020.
  • The stringent Zero-Covid policy of China has also increased the strain on the country's economy with disrupted global supply chains and rising inflation. 
  • While millions remain under strict home quarantine, some others have been forced to relocate to quarantine camps or metal box houses and undergo forced mass testing. 
  • The conditions at the quarantine camps are also reportedly extremely primitive with no showers, no hot water, no privacy and portable toilets.

Is China softening its COVID strategy?

While China still follows its zero-Covid policy, it has shown some signs of softening other COVID measures including allowing mil cases to isolate in centralised locations instead of hospitals. The criteria for a patient to be discharged from quarantine have also been relaxed. 

Earlier, China would admit every patient, asymptomatic or those with mild symptoms to the hospital. The Chinese authorities are also now proposing to locally isolate such cases.

China's stance on its Zero-Covid policy 

China claims that it must follow a zero-Covid policy as "Omicron can generate a higher mortality rate than Delta" during the epidemic.

China's Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian defended the country's strict Covid measures insisting that the zero-COVID policy and anti-epidemic protocols are based on science and expert opinions and are in consistent with its national realities and WHO's guiding principles.

Australia's swing from zero-Covid policy

Australia was one of the nations that followed a Zero-Covid policy like China until the outbreak of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. Australia's Covid-19 policy was dubbed as a fortress with international travels suspended, largely isolating its citizens from the world.

However, the nation's zero-Covid policy was deserted when the highly transmissible Omicron variant started spreading, as controlling it is almost impossible. The nation also reopened its borders for fully vaccinated international tourists from February 21, 2022 after almost two years, ending one of the world's strictest and longest travel restrictions. 

Read Also: Australia reopens borders to foreign tourists after almost 2 years

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