China's 'Zero Covid Policy' takes a toll on human suffering

President Xi Jinping has repeatedly highlighted the success of the Chinese policies in his speeches and added that there would be no immediate change of approach in pandemic control measures.
Deliverymen wearing protective suits carry bags of food at the gate of a residential community in Shanghai. (File Photo | AP)
Deliverymen wearing protective suits carry bags of food at the gate of a residential community in Shanghai. (File Photo | AP)

BEIJING: Despite following a 'Zero Covid Policy', Covid cases continue to rise in China leading to loss of livelihoods, extended lockdowns, huge economic losses and ascending levels of anxiety among the citizens of the country.

The financial capital of China and a city of more than 26 million residents, Shanghai has been in lockdown for the last many weeks due to China's worst outbreak of Covid since the beginning of the pandemic in 2019 in Wuhan province. The stringent measures to control the spread go as far as putting even asymptomatic Covid-positive residents in specialised isolation sites while aggressive mass testing, strict lockdowns, and extended quarantine periods to deal with the pandemic are still in place, The Israel Times quoted.

On April 8, the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China wrote to Chinese Vice Premier Hu Chunhua complaining of 'significant disruptions' due to the lockdowns. It warned that such an approach had "an unfortunate impact on China's image to the rest of the world while eroding foreign investors' confidence in the Chinese market."

According to The Israel Times, several viral videos coming from the city in recent days have highlighted angry locals resisting additional restrictive measures from the authorities, which have already upended their lives. On April 15, for instance, a video live-streamed on Chinese social media platforms showed residents of the city's Pudong district clashing with health authorities after they tried to block a government-mandated requisition of buildings to house Covid-19 patients.

Footage also showed some healthcare staff wearing suits labelled 'police,' wrestling residents to the ground and leading several away toward a white van. Other similar videos have shown people protesting the lockdowns, fighting the food and medicines shortage, and babies - sometimes those breastfeeding ones, separated from their parents.

Some of these centres' conditions are so awful that some social media posts describe them as 'refugee camps' and 'concentration camps.'

The statistics show how miserably is the Chinese government failing when even after the lockdown, a surge in infections can be seen and the daily average load of cases stands around 1700. Moreover, cases have shot up in the past few days, reported local media. These strict restrictions have also caused other kinds of deaths, including critical patients who needed immediate medical attention or who could not reach in time to the hospital due to curbs on local travel.

President Xi Jinping has, in his speeches, repeatedly highlighted the success of the Chinese policies and added that there would be no immediate change of approach in pandemic control measures. He also claimed that China's success demonstrates the advantages of the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) leadership and the socialist system.

However, this unusually harsh response to the pandemic has rather brought a sharp rebuke from foreign governments and businesses.

For instance, the United States has advised its citizens to reconsider travel to China "due to arbitrary enforcement of local laws and Covid-19 restrictions." In another embarrassment to the authorities, diplomats from more than 30 countries wrote to the Chinese foreign ministry expressing concern over the policy of separating COVID-positive children from their parents. Besides the foreign governments, even businesses have stepped to express scepticism, said The Israel Times, citing sources.

Across China, cities are locking down their residents, supply lines are rupturing, and officials are scrambling to secure the movement of basic goods, with its largest-ever recorded outbreak of COVID-19 threatening to spiral into a national crisis of the government's own making. It is estimated that "23 Chinese cities have implemented either full or partial lockdowns" and notably, these cities contribute 22 per cent of China's GDP. Big factories belonging to Chinese and Taiwanese manufacturers are shut amid lockdown and the ports are clogged with slow loading and unloading of freight affecting global trade.

The Chinese Communist Party(CCP) did not make an intense, deliberate effort to remove vaccine hesitancy among the people to counter and control the pandemic's spread rather politicised the pandemic response to yield the results which in turn is imposing disproportionate economic costs on the people who have to bear the brunt of extended lockdowns.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government has refused to review its policy as President Xi Jinping, the architect of the Zero COVID programme claims he can minimize the losses but the worsening situation in Shanghai suggests things getting out of his control.

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The New Indian Express