Hong Kong — China confirmed two new COVID-19 deaths on Sunday, as several localities slowly lift anti-pandemic regulations in response to growing public discontent.
According to the National Health Commission, each of the provinces of Shandong and Sichuan recorded one fatality. There was no mention of the victims’ ages or whether or not they had been completely vaccinated.
China, where the virus was first found in late 2019 in Wuhan’s central district, is the final major nation attempting to entirely halt transmission through quarantines, lockdowns, and mass testing. Vaccination rates are considered to have a significant role in the ruling Communist Party’s resolve to maintain its hard-line stance.
And nine in 10 Chinese have been vaccinated, just 66% of persons over 80 have had one shot while 40% have received a booster, according to the commission. It was said that 86% of those over 60 are immunized.
Given these numbers and the fact that relatively few Chinese have developed immunity to the virus through exposure, some fear that millions may perish if all restrictions were eliminated.
However, an outpouring of public outrage appears to have persuaded officials to relax some of the more stringent restrictions, even as they maintain that the “zero-COVID” approach, which seeks to isolate every infected individual, remains in effect.
The largest and most widespread demonstrations in decades broke out on November 25 when a fire in an apartment building in the northern city of Urumqi killed at least ten people. This sparked internet outrage about whether firemen or victims attempting to flee were impeded by locked doors or other anti-virus safeguards. Authorities denied this, but the killings became a focal point of popular anger.
This still from video captured by an eyewitness and made public by AFPTV on November 27, 2022, depicts protestors screaming slogans in Shanghai. AFPTV/AFP images from Getty Images
Protesters demanded a loosening of COVID-19 restrictions throughout several days of demonstrations in places like as Shanghai and Beijing. Some asked that Chinese President Xi Jinping resign, a rare display of public criticism in a culture where the governing Communist Party exerts nearly absolute control.
Beijing and other Chinese cities have declared that, for the first time in months, passengers can board buses and subways without undergoing a virus test. Some Beijing citizens have complained that, despite the fact that the city has closed numerous testing stations, COVID-19 examinations are still required at the majority of public locations.
Sunday, China reported an additional 35,775 cases, 31,607 of which were asymptomatic, for a total of 336,165 cases and 5,235 fatalities.
While many have questioned the authenticity of the Chinese estimates, they remain relatively modest compared to those of the United States and other nations, who are now loosening rules and attempting to live with a virus that has killed at least 6.6 million people and infected almost 650 million.
Even though its infection rates are minimal relative to its population of 1,4 billion, China nonetheless mandates quarantine for all arriving foreigners.