People waited in line outside Chinese fever clinics for COVID-19 tests on Monday. This is a sign that the spread of symptoms has increased rapidly since authorities started dismantling an apparatus used to monitor residents and restrict movement.
After three years of the pandemic and unprecedented protests, China now aligns itself with a global community that is largely reopening to COVID after a referendum that de facto voted against President Xi Jinping’s “zero COVID” policy.
Protests against Xi were the most public demonstration of his decade-old presidency. They coincided with grim figures for China’s $17 billion economy this year, which was the second largest in the world. These numbers were some of the lowest for almost half a century.
Beijing dropped the requirement for mandatory testing before any public activity, and reined quarantine. By Tuesday morning, a government-mandated mobile application that tracks travel history of an estimated 1.4 billion people will be deactivated.
According to an official notice posted on WeChat, the app which identified travelers to COVID-stricken regions will be shut down Monday at midnight.
State radio quoted Liu Xingliang as saying that the app had collected a lot of sensitive and personal information and should be removed quickly.
China Unicom, a state-owned Chinese telecom company, announced late Monday that it will delete mobile itinerary data from users starting Tuesday. This was previously used for identifying travellers in COVID-stricken regions.
Three years ago, some critics raised concerns that such apps could be used to mass-surveillance and social control.
After a prolonged two-month lockdown in Shanghai earlier this year that saw the country’s biggest city, China, officials announced that no district would be considered high risk starting Tuesday. This means that all measures to keep people trapped inside homes will cease for the time being.
Authorities across the country continue to advise mask-wearing, and vaccinations for seniors.
China has been relatively uninfected with a variety of diseases, but analysts warn that it is not well-prepared for an outbreak. This could cause serious damage to its health and bring down businesses.
Lily Li works in a Guangzhou toy factory. She said that several of her employees were infected, along with staff from suppliers and distributors.
She stated that “essentially everyone is now simultaneously rushing for rapid antigen testing kits, but they have also given up hope of COVID being contained.” “We accept that COVID will be required at some time.”
As ambulances zoomed past, 80 people were huddled together in cold conditions outside Chaoyang’s fever clinic.
On Monday, a Chinese official stated that 22,000 people visited such clinics per day. This is 16 more than the week before.
Reuters saw similar lines outside the clinics of Wuhan’s central city, three years after COVID-19 was first introduced.
Official figures indicate that local cases are trending down since the peak at 40,052 in November, but they have declined over recent weeks. Sunday’s 8,626 count was lower than the 10,597 cases recorded on Monday.
Analysts say the numbers reflect the drop in testing requirements. Health experts warn of an impending surge of contagion.
Zhang Wenhong (head of the team of experts working in Shanghai’s commercial hub) made comments Monday in Shanghai Securities News. He said that the current pandemic could reach its peak within a month. However, an end to it might take three to six more months.
Zhang and his team stated in a WeChat posting that, despite the recent surge, Omicron virus of coronavirus didn’t cause any long-term harm. People should remain optimistic.
The post stated, “We’re about to leave the tunnel. Air, sunshine and free travel are all in our sights.”
China’s stock market fell on Monday, and the yuan dropped from its near-three-month peak in the previous session. Investors worried about spreading diseases that might affect consumption and production.
However, the demand for Chinese funeral service providers and Chinese drugmakers soared because of this same reason.
The management of the condominium in Beijing’s Dongcheng warned its residents to “Please Protect Yourself” on Sunday. They said that almost all their staff were infected.
It said that “Try to not go out” on WeChat. Let’s all face it together, be the first to assume responsibility for our own health.
Some people may be reluctant to eat in restaurants or visit crowds because of these messages.
This is why analysts don’t expect an immediate, large rebound in economic spending. The glee at the sudden relaxations was temperated by uncertainty for businesses and consumers.
China has been pushing for greater freedoms in travel across the country, even though foreign trips are still a ways off.
VariFlight’s flight tracker app VariFlight revealed that there were more domestic flights than ever before in China, almost double the number a week earlier.
The China Index Academy reported that 16 new home sales increased last week in 16 cities. This was partly due to an easing in curbs as more people go out to see homes.