Confusion in China over new anti-Covid protocol as virus spreads

Beijing, Nov 15 (EFE).- Residents of Chinese cities such as Beijing or Guangzhou (south) on Tuesday expressed confusion on social networks over the closure of PCR-testing booths that had become a part of their daily routine, at a time when these populations have witnessed a spike in new cases.


Over the past few hours, authorities in the two cities announced that they would stop carrying out massive PCR-testing campaigns among all the residents of a district, and that they had closed several sample collecting booths, which had become omnipresent in major Chinese cities.


Several other cities such as Hefei, Shanghai (east) and Fuzhou (southeast), published similar statements.


Now the residents have been urged to undergo Covid tests within their neighborhood or townships to reduce the risk of infection during street testing – as residents of different districts converge at the collection booths – or pay for their tests. The public testing booths had been offering free testing.

A health worker scans the ID of a man before performing a COVID-19 test in Chaoyang district in Beijing, China, 14 November 2022. EFE-EPA/WU HAO


However, all the neighborhoods do not have booths or sufficient personnel to carry out tests, and it is still mandatory to show a negative PCR tests carried out within 72 hours or less to use public transport or enter offices, museums, parks, shops and other public spaces.


As a result, the remaining facilities offering PCR tests witnessed long queues on Monday and Tuesday.


A Guangzhou resident said on Weibo – the Chinese equivalent of Twitter – that he still needed a negative PCR carried out within 24 hours to enter his office, but could only go and queue up for the test during working hours, which meant he was effectively being prevented from working.


On Monday, the Chinese capital registered over 450 fresh infections, while Guangzhou witnessed more than 5,000 new cases.
Since 2020, when China launched its “zero-Covid” policy, this level of infections in a city has usually resulted in a total or partial lockdown.


However, Beijing streets have continued to witness normalcy, with targeted lockdowns enforced only on some buildings and traffic dipping down slightly.


Authorities have urged residents to work from home when possible and restrict leaving the Chaoyang district, where the largest number of cases are concentrated.


In Guangzhou, a city of 15 million residents, even thousands of daily infections have not triggered a full lockdown, although some areas in the Haizhu district – worst-affected by the outbreak – have remained closed.

People line up for nucleic acid-based testing (PCR) to detect COVID-19 infection in Chaoyang district in Beijing, China, 14 November 2022. EFE-EPA/WU HAO


On Friday, China slightly amended its anti-pandemic protocols.


Even though the state council (the government) of China has stressed the need of persisting with the zero-Covid policy, it has advised against routine PCR tests of the entire population of a city or a district and criticized practices such as collecting residents’ samples twice a day – which had been applied in some cities in recent months – for being “unscientific.”


The zero-Covid policy, in place since early 2020, calls for the isolation of all the infected persons and their close contacts in hospitals or other facilities.


According to official figures, 5,226 people have died of Covid-19 in China so far, with authorities claiming to have saved millions of lives with their strict policies. EFE
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