CHINA has been hit by a Covid outbreak that is set to spread like “wildfire” after the country lifted its tough lockdown.
Xi Jinping was humiliatingly forced to abandon his “zero Covid” policy after a nationwide wave of protests during which he faced rare calls for his resignation.
In a sharp turn, China has reversed some of its strictest rules – including reducing lockdown times and ordering students to return to classrooms.
Anger at China’s “zero Covid” policies – which included mass lockdowns, constant testing and lengthy quarantines – fueled widespread unrest on a scale not seen since the pro-democracy protests of 1989.
A number of Covid cases in schools and businesses were reported in areas across China on Friday
While official data showed a fall in new cases, they no longer cover large swathes of the population after the government ended testing for many people on Wednesday.
In many cities, social media users said colleagues or classmates were ill and some businesses had closed due to staff shortages.
“I’m really speechless. Half of the company’s employees are sick, but they still don’t let us all stay at home,” read a post on social media platform Weibo.
People who said they were in Baoding, a city of 11 million southwest of Beijing, reported testing positive with home kits or experiencing a fever, sore throat and headache.
Pharmacies were reportedly raided by customers who had bought medicines to treat a sore throat and headache.
This comes after rules were dropped requiring pharmacists to report these purchases, prompting fears a customer could be forced into a quarantine centre.
Very few people come because there are so many cases,” said Gang Xueping, a waitress at a Beijing restaurant.
“The country has just opened up. The first month or two will definitely be serious. Nobody has gotten used to that yet.”
But as the country’s immunization program struggles, many are now predicting China will be on the brink of an infection wave in a population with very low immunity.
dr Ali Mokdad, a professor at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, warned that Covid would spread rapidly in China.
“If you look at the numbers, only about 25 percent of people in China have immunity to Omicron,” he told Fortune.
“If they open, 75 percent of the population will be infected. They can’t handle the explosion of infections and hospitalizations. This will spread like wildfire.”
Doubts have been raised about the accuracy of China’s Covid statistics.
After hitting a record 39,791 cases nationwide on Nov. 26, that dropped to just 16,797 on Friday.
Raymond Yeung, China economist at ANZ Bank, told the Financial Times observations on the ground showed some cities were already having “high infection numbers”.
Other major cities will soon suffer similar rates of infection.
The situation is similar to the first outbreak in Wuhan three years ago, according to Rodney Jones, a director at Wigram Capital Advisors, an Asia-focused macroeconomic advisory group.
“The behavior of the case numbers is very similar to 2020, where we had one [to] two weeks of real case numbers before the veil was lifted,” he said.
“We have no idea if we will see actual case data again and if the sharp drop in cases is due to reduced testing or political management of case data.”
https://www.the-sun.com/news/6884075/china-covid-outbreak-xi-climbdown-lockdown/ China has been devastated by the “WILDFIRE” Covid outbreak after Xi was forced into a humiliating descent over the world’s toughest lockdown