Frustration boiled over Friday among residents and business groups in China tightening of controls on COVID-19 as the country reported another record daily infection just weeks after hopes of an easing of measures.

A resurgence of COVID cases in China, with 32,695 new local infections recorded on Thursday as multiple cities reported outbreaks, prompted widespread shutdowns and other measures to halt traffic and business, as well as a pushback.

China’s response to COVID is dealing a growing blow to the world’s second-largest economy, and on Friday its central bank took an expected supportive step by reducing the amount of cash banks must hold as reserves. This frees up 500 billion yuan ($69.8 billion) of long-term liquidity.


The French Chamber of Commerce in China called on authorities to properly implement the COVID “optimization” measures announced two weeks ago in a statement widely shared on social media after the French embassy posted it on its Twitter-like Weibo account on Thursday.

The 20 measures, which include reduced quarantines and other more targeted steps, have given French companies “hope” for greater bilateral trade and economic exchange, but “good policies must also be implemented in a unified manner and without adding layers of other conflicting policies,” the statement said. ward.

The announcement of the 20 measures, just as the rise in cases sparked an increasingly violent response under China’s strict zero-covid approach, has sparked widespread confusion and uncertainty in major cities, including Beijing, where many residents are confined to their homes.

Chinese citizens are lining up to get swabs amid the country’s ongoing fight against the COVID pandemic, with many restrictions still in place despite much of the world gradually easing them.
(REUTERS/Thomas Peter)

“Draconian approach”

China is defending President Xi Jinping’s zero-spread policy for COVID-19 as lifesaving and necessary to prevent the health system from being overwhelmed.

Many analysts expect a significant easing of the coronavirus containment only from March or April next year, with some experts warning that China must significantly increase vaccinations and change its messaging in a country where fear of COVID is high.

Transitioning to life with COVID will be difficult in the medium term, said Singaporean economist Rob Cornell.

“Once you start moving away from a really draconian approach, then it just escalates quickly,” he said.

“I’m still not sure they’re ready to take that hit,” he said, referring to the large number of people getting sick or dying. “And until they are, they’re going to fight it.”

At the world’s largest iPhone factory in the central city of Zhengzhou, more than 20,000 new employees walked off after worker unrest linked to COVID-19 this week, further hurting production at Apple supplier Foxconn’s factory, Reuters reported.

Links to a speech by a man in the southwestern city of Chongqing calling on the government to admit its mistakes regarding COVID have been widely shared on Chinese social media.

“Give me freedom or death,” the bespectacled man told residents in an impassioned speech on Thursday, according to videos seen by Reuters.

“There is only one disease in the world, and that is to be poor and not have freedom at the same time,” he added. “Now we have both. We’re still fighting and suffering from a bit of a cold.”

Security personnel were later seen dragging the man to a police car, prompting angry screams from onlookers.

Hashtags related to the man, who netizens called “Chongqing’s Superman Brother” or “Chongqing’s Hero”, were censored on Friday. But individual users continued to show support by posting subtle messages or cartoons featuring him.

Alternative approaches?

As more people are affected by the lockdowns, some suggest alternative approaches. In Beijing, residents of some compounds shared suggestions on WeChat about how infected neighbors could self-quarantine at home if they did not have serious symptoms.

It is unclear whether such initiatives will succeed.

Notices listing the circumstances in which health workers can remove a person from their home, aimed at educating people about their rights when asked to be taken to a quarantine centre, have also been shared online.


Louise Lu, senior economist at Oxford Economics, said reports of popular discontent in the provinces over partial or total lockdowns had picked up momentum, as they had during the last major outbreak in April, although they “do not yet reflect large-scale collective action”.

“As before, we expect officials to be able to respond quickly to stop the social risk of escalating protests, either through a combination of tighter information controls or a gradual easing of restrictions,” Lu wrote.

Although the April outbreak was concentrated in Shanghai, this time the clusters of cases are many and far-flung.

The southern city of Guangzhou and southwestern Chongqing have recorded the bulk of cases, while cities including Chengdu, Jinan, Lanzhou, Xi’an and Wuhan are recording hundreds of new infections daily. Beijing reported 1,860 cases on Thursday.


In the east, Nanjing in Jiangsu province said it would conduct mass tests for five consecutive days starting Saturday, the latest city to announce such plans.

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