World news

the zero Covid policy, from the first case in Wuhan to the victory of the protesters

► On December 1, 2019, first case of Covid-19 detected in Wuhan

The first case of Covid-19 infection is detected in China, in Wuhan. The authorities affirm a simple principle, “life rather than the economy”, and decide to establish a zero Covid policy.

This orientation, partly dictated by the fragility of the Chinese health system and the aging of the population, will then be extended due to the limited effectiveness of Chinese vaccines. This will lead to repeated confinements of the population, forcing them to undergo repeated tests and forcing them into strict isolation in the event of contamination.

The situation in China had thus become drastically different from that of all the other countries, which managed to adapt to the virus thanks to health measures but also to the appearance of vaccines and treatments.

► The 20th Congress of the CPC, warning signs

The 20th congress has been analyzed as the consecration of Xi Jinping, presented as the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong. Yet this Communist Party “high mass” also hinted at tensions between local and national cadres over the announced continuation of the zero Covid policy.

► November 15, the start of the protest

The demonstrations against the measures taken by the Chinese government to stem the Covid-19 pandemic begin on November 15, 2022. They are considered to be the largest since that of Tiananmen Square, repressed in blood in 1989.

Riots break out in “iPhone City”, the largest iPhone factory in the world. Demonstrators even demand the resignation of Xi Jinping in Shanghai. If they are few, the protest extends on the other hand throughout the country.

The 2022 World Cup, which shows tens of thousands of spectators without masks in the spans of Qatari stadiums, is helping to fuel the anger of the Chinese, as well as a deadly incident in Ürümqi, in Xinjiang. Fire trucks had been unable to enter the residential area due to barriers serving to contain the area.

Experts say the government is getting stuck with its own zero Covid policy. Due to the drastic measures adopted, the Chinese population has been little infected and remains little vaccinated.

As of October 30, the pandemic had officially claimed 5,226 lives. According to the company Airfinity, an easing of restrictions could therefore cause 1.3 to 2.1 million deaths in the country.

► December 7, relief

China finally announces on Wednesday December 7 the easing of its zero Covid policy. In particular, it authorizes certain positive cases to carry out their quarantine at home and reduces the use of generalized PCR tests.

According to new guidelines released by the National Health Commission (NHC), “asymptomatic infected people and mild cases that can be isolated at home generally will be”and the country goes “further reduce the scope of nucleic acid testing and reduce its frequency”.

The announcement comes a few hours after the official publication of new worrying figures for the world’s second largest economy: in November, China saw its exports and imports collapse, under the combined effect of its zero Covid policy and a demand sluggish.


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