It’s hard to imagine and hard to overstate what people across China have been through during the coronavirus pandemic. As Grid has repeatedly reported, after fending off the first major outbreak of covid-19 in Wuhan nearly three years ago, China has confidently (and some would say arrogantly) embarked on a known policy. under the name of “zero-covid”. .” Key features of this policy have been long quarantines, strict testing regimes and – most controversially – widespread lockdowns that have followed even small outbreaks of cases. The economic and human costs of zero covid have been considerable.
We’re devoting this space to the issue — in part because there have been new outbreaks in the capital, Beijing, and the southern city of Zhengzhou, home to key factories for assembling Apple iPhones. But we are also focusing on China and zero-covid because of news that will have been welcome for millions of Chinese citizens: the first cracks in the government’s ironclad approach have appeared.
Under new rules announced on Friday, quarantine times for close contacts with the virus have been shortened from seven to five days; travelers from other countries now have to quarantine for eight days – still a long time, relatively speaking – but that’s down from what was a 10-day mandate. For people in China, the new measures mean the number of close contacts who will be subject to mass isolation and testing has also decreased.
To non-Chinese, none of this will sound like cause for celebration. But for those who have experienced lockdowns and other restrictions since the start of 2020, this is a start. In particular, this modification of the rules relating to “close contacts” will be particularly welcome; Millions of Chinese citizens were until Friday forced to self-quarantine for 10 days after confirmed contact with anyone who had contact with a covid-positive person. This meant quarantining tens of millions of people who had never contracted the virus themselves.
That said, these photos are less about the celebrations – we haven’t seen these images yet, if they exist – and more about the new lockdowns. A reminder of what so many Chinese hope will soon end.