Shanghai is moving to allow dining out and reopening its Disney Resort theme park as domestically transmitted cases of Covid-19 in China’s largest city remain at zero following a more than two-month lockdown.
Chinese officials hailed their hardline “zero-Covid” policy for stemming the growth of cases and deaths from the virus, despite the enormous cost to the Chinese economy and the impact on international supply chains reliant on China’s manufacturing and shipping abilities.
China has repeatedly defended the policy and indications are it will maintain “zero-Covid” at least through to the spring of 2023, when President Xi Jinping is expected to be installed for a third five-year term as head of the world’s second-largest economy and a rising competitor to the United States in the Indo-Pacific region.
In remarks carried by the official Xinhua News Agency, Mr Xi said on Wednesday that China’s policies against the virus have “protected people’s lives and health to the greatest extent”.
Mr Xi was speaking during a visit to the central city of Wuhan, where the virus was first detected in late 2019 before the outbreak of the pandemic that has killed more than 6.3 million people worldwide, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University in the United States.
“If China had adopted the ‘herd immunity’ policy or a hands-off approach, given its large population, the country would have faced catastrophic consequences,” Xinhua quoted Mr Xi as saying.
“Even if there are some temporary impacts on the economy, we will not put people’s lives and health in harm’s way, and we must protect the elderly and the children in particular.”
Having associated himself so closely with the zero-Covid policy, any backdown by Mr Xi would be seen as a political liability as he seeks to ensure his further control of domestic power and influence abroad.
China’s tough approach, which involves lockdowns on hundreds of millions of people, mass testing costing billions of pounds and quarantines upending thousands of lives “are the most economical and effective”, Xinhua reported Mr Xi as saying.
Despite the loosened restrictions, a negative test result on a mobile phone is still required for access to most public spaces in Shanghai and other cities.
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