China’s vice premier signals change on Covid stance as some lockdowns are eased | China

One of China’s most senior pandemic response officials said the country was entering a “new phase and mission” in the latest sign of the government’s changing approach after mass protests against its zero-Covid policy.

China’s Vice Premier Sun Chunlan made the comments to national health officials on Wednesday, state media Xinhua reported. It came as several regions, including Shanghai, began lifting lockdowns despite a high number of cases.

“With the decreasing pathogenicity of the omicron variant, the increasing vaccination rate, and the accumulated experience of outbreak control and prevention, China’s epidemic control is facing a new stage and task,” Sun said.

Sun was hearing from a roundtable of health experts, Xinhua said, praising China’s efforts before offering recommendations to “improve” current measures. China is also taking a more “humanitarian approach” with its outbreak responses, he said. The Sun, like health officials who addressed the country on Tuesday, did not refer to it as “dynamic”. Zero covid” policy, instead emphasizing vaccination and other measures.

Only in recent days have Chinese authorities begun emphasizing the low severity of the Omicron strain of Covid-19. The state media has also started issuing assurances to the public not to panic about this change. The change in tone comes with a new vaccine drive aimed at older adults announced Tuesday. More than 90% of China’s population has received at least two doses of the vaccine, but the rate drops sharply in the elderly population, especially among those over 80 years of age.

China reported 36,061 cases on Wednesday, down slightly from Tuesday’s 37,828. Despite the relatively high numbers, some areas have begun to ease restrictions.

On Thursday, state media reported that 24 districts designated as “high risk” in Shanghai had been released from lockdown measures. It continued Relaxation of lockdowns As of Wednesday, the number of cases in both cities was rising among 11 districts in Guangzhou. The lifting of the lockdowns suggested easing of tough measures that the protesters had mobilized against. However, officials show that the grievances are a sign that they have been heard No tolerance for protestsAnd those who take to the streets are regularly monitored and in some cases detained.

Zhengzhou, where workers at an Apple-supplier factory staged extraordinary walkouts in recent weeks to escape Covid-19 containment, has also eased restrictions. State media also reported that Chongqing will begin lifting lockdowns.

Hu Xijin, a former editor and public commentator for the nationalist state media Global Times, noted the sudden changes. “China is speeding up to put aside large-scale lockdowns,” Hu said on Twitter on Thursday.

Analysts said the changes were a clear sign that the government had not publicly acknowledged the protesters, instead sending officers to pursue those who participated in the protests.

Saw it last week Many days of struggle After 10 people died in a building fire in Xinjiang’s Urumqi, on a scale not seen in China for decades, growing frustration over the zero-covid policy combined with anger and grief.

China is the last major country still committed to an elimination strategy in response to Covid-19. The policy was successful in the early stages of the pandemic, largely keeping the virus at bay and keeping the death toll low compared to other countries. However, emergency systems of highly contagious variants are challenging and sometimes overwhelming, resulting in frequent and sudden lockdowns, travel restrictions and associated shortages including food shortages, secondary deaths and economic damage.

Some rallies also chanted demands for democracy and the rule of law and for SHANGHAI – President Xi Jinping to step down. Observers say those who have protested against Xi and the government face harsher punishments, as authorities seek to remind citizens that they are intolerant of dissent.

The protests also coincided Death of Former Chinese President Jiang Zemin. The 96-year-old, who was promoted to head of the Communist Party during the Tiananmen protests and later led years of economic expansion, died on Wednesday, state media said. Time has kept the audience awake – China has a tradition of using mourning events for past leaders to express dissatisfaction with the current regime.

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