China may relax zero-Covid policy after protests

Beijing: China has said it will take steps to “minimize” the impact of its draconian coronavirus lockdowns, amidst the unprecedented public protests against President Xi Jinping’s stringent zero-COVID policy that evoked strong support from the UN, the US and other nations.

The anti-zero Covid protests in the last few days in several Chinese cities, including Shanghai and Beijing, which turned political with calls for Xi to step down showed signs of abetment with no demonstrations reported as police stepped up crackdown with visits to homes of protestors in different places.

Seeking to address international concerns, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said China has been adjusting the zero-Covid policy based on the changing circumstances.

“We will keep improving science-based maximum protection to people’s lives and health and minimize the Covid impact on social economic development,” he said at a press conference.

China maintains a strict zero-Covid policy under which local authorities clamp down on even small outbreaks with mass testing, quarantines and snap lockdowns. The country has moved quickly to suppress demonstrations that erupted in key cities against the zero-Covid policy, deploying police forces at key protest sites and tightening online censorship.

The places where the anti-government protests have taken place have been sealed with barricades. Also, several universities and colleges, including the prestigious Tsinghua University, where hundreds of students held blank paper protests — an act which has become a symbol of defiance against Chinese censorship — were advised to go to their hometowns.

The scale of the rare spontaneous weekend protest in Shanghai, Beijing, Chengdu, Wuhan and several other places caught the Communist Party and the police by surprise.

Meanwhile, China continues to report a high number of COVID cases. The National Health Commission on Tuesday said 38,421 coronavirus cases were reported from across the country. The new cases include 5,375 infections recorded in Beijing where several apartment buildings were kept under lockdown.

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