Xu Xinhua waits an hour each day for healthcare professionals to press a cotton swab against their throat and rotate it. Every time, he hopes his Covid test will be negative and he will be able to continue to deliver food, medicine and flowers to residents throughout Shanghai.
Mr. Xu, 49, is paid hourly from the intercity courier Chanson Express, but only when he is processing the order. “That means you work an hour without profit,” Xu said in an interview.
This routine is well known to hundreds of millions of people because China has made Covid’s lab testing a permanent feature of everyday life. In major cities across the country, residents are required to present a negative PCR test to go shopping, take the subway or bus, or participate in public activities, even if there are no reported cases. ..
China is the last country in the world to eliminate Covid, and the epidemic of highly contagious Omicron variants is challenging mass blockade and quarantine strategies. The country has already used the Health Code app to monitor the public and track infections, imposing strict blockades and centralized quarantine for close contact with confirmed cases.
Authorities hope that regular mass testing will help isolate cases within the community before they spiral into a larger outbreak. However, this policy can be costly and time consuming and undermines the central government’s efforts to revitalize the economy.
In Shanghai, just two weeks after the city Release the two-month blockadeAuthorities have put millions under a new blockade to carry out large-scale tests and have launched protests in some areas. In Beijing, cases peaked in three weeks on Tuesday, a few days after the city announced that it had curbed the outbreak. In the eastern part of Chaoyang, where the outbreak was tied to one bar, authorities began testing residents for three days and closed the business.
Workers say the time required to take the test is reducing their wages.Local government is taking money from Poverty reduction A project to pay for testing. Businesses are worried that this requirement will hurt productivity, and economists are worried that people are at home to avoid annoyance.
Some local governments have tried to reduce the test. Others acknowledge the heavy burden that regular inspections impose on citizens. However, China’s top leader Xi Jinping has ordered the country to “steadily” stick to a strategy to eradicate the infection, and dozens of officials have been dismissed for mishandling the outbreak, politically dangerous. We are working to ease the restrictions.
Yanzhong Huang, a global health expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, said: “I think rational local government officials have an incentive to enthusiastically pursue the Zero-COVID policy rather than taking a more flexible approach.”
A small inspection with a gloved hand sticking out and a hole to wipe the throat after ordering the city to allow residents to be inspected within a 15-minute walk from where Deputy Prime Minister Sun Chunlan lives. Booths appeared in the town square and shopped in the squares and parks.
According to the health authorities in 57 cities and 5 out of 31 states in China (covering almost half of the country’s 1.4 billion people), health authorities have launched some kind of normalized testing system. Report According to Suzhou-based financial company Soochow Securities.
This approach has fostered public anger in several places. In Shanghai, authorities have recently resealed housing estates and even blocks for testing. This is because one resident happened to be in the same store or subway car as the one who later tested positive.
A frustrated inhabitant living in the northeastern part of Yangpo City on Monday night struck a bowl and shouted, “Stop the blockade!” Jaap Grolleman, a Dutch teacher living in the neighborhood, said after their compound was blocked over the weekend. He said more than a dozen police officers stood outside a huge closed wrought-iron gate.
“People are worried about getting on the subway or going to the shopping center,” Grolleman said. I saw his neighbor protesting.. “I don’t know if anyone is positive before or after the test, which means they will be dragged into the quarantine or the entire compound will be blocked.”
In Beijing’s Chaoyang district, some residents are suffering from more testing and blockades. Zoey Zhou, a journalist living in the district, said she was worried that if the test failed, her health code app would not be able to enter her neighborhood.
“I don’t think it’s acceptable for the government to put more strain on the masses and increase surveillance in the name of epidemic prevention,” Zhou said. “Why am I deprived of the freedom I should have?”
There are signs that China’s pandemic policy is spreading throughout the economy. Fewer people are shopping and retail sales are declining. People are not very interested in buying real estate. Real estate sales in April plummeted 39% year-on-year.
Local governments are having a hard time paying for all the tests. In Yangquan, a city in northern China, authorities said it would build a mass inspection system despite the city’s “strict financial constraints.” In southern Kaifen, officials said they had raised $ 3 million for testing “under very difficult financial conditions.”
Estimates of the total cost of the new test policy vary, but can be in the tens of billions of dollars. According to Japanese bank Nomura, expanding the test to smaller cities and gaining 70% of the population could cost as much as 1.8% of annual economic growth.
Shanghai said that In August It begins to charge the resident for all tests. In one test, the deliveryman, Mr. Xu, costs about half of the hour. His income had already been hit during the two-month blockade of Shanghai, where he had to live in a hotel where he could come and go.
Some governments have warned of the need to limit the impact of measures. Beijing health officials warned Thursday that PCR tests “should not be standard”. Also, in some cities, the frequency requirement for running tests has been relaxed.
Southern Jiangxi facing civil servants Wage cut Due to the very tight budget, the authorities narrowed down the bonus for several months, and authorities said last week. Stop mass testing In areas where there are few cases, it is cited as an obstacle to economic development.
According to experts, the test may break the infection chain before it develops into an outbreak, but it is unsustainable in the long run. Other measures, such as increased vaccination and access to antiviral drugs, may help the country develop broader immunity and prepare for future outbreaks.
However, of the 264 million people in China over the age of 60, only 64% are boosted. Experts say this number is too low. According to the report, a third dose of China’s major Sinovac vaccine is required to significantly increase protection against severe illness and death. Recent research..
Some business leaders point out what they see as a short-sighted approach to government. At a recent meeting with Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang and other foreign business leaders, Jörg Demus, China’s top representative of German chemical giant BASF, said: He said he urged the leader to focus on vaccination instead of testing. Wuttke told Li that failure to vaccinate older people “can take the economy hostage.”
Li You When Joydon Contributed to the research.