China has a Zero-Covid policy
Beijing 2022
The Olympic Protection Bubble
Many tests in Beijing
The 'Covid Army'
The biggest lockdown since Wuhan
One of the historical capitals of China
Home of the Terracotta Army
A few hundred cases
Urgent measures
Compare it to other places in the world...
The people of Xi'an complained
Food shortages and crises in hospitals
The woman lost her child
Trading for food
Hunger
Big Brother is watching you
Censorship is normal in China
Criticism is crushed
40,000 people in quarantine
First the virus, then the dignity
A tap on the fingers
Scapegoats
Back to normal?
A strict approach helps
But is it all worth it?
Endemism stopped
Disadvantages of China's Zero-Covid Policy
March 2022: many new infections
How is the Covid army going to solve that?
Can China's merciless 'Covid Army' handle Omicron?
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China has a Zero-Covid policy

The People's Republic of China has a Zero-Covid policy. That means no contamination is allowed. The government has deployed hundreds of thousands of government employees to enforce that policy as a kind of 'army'.

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Beijing 2022

The 2022 Olympics took place in Beijing under great tension. China wanted to show the world that it had the right approach to the pandemic.

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The Olympic Protection Bubble

During the Games, Beijing, like other sports venues, was hermetically sealed. "All that visitors to Beijing see is what can be seen within the China-created Covid-free bubble," the BBC reported.

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Many tests in Beijing

Extra strict restrictions and massive Covid-19 testing determined life in some parts of the Chinese capital.

But it can always be stricter. Read more about the case of the city of Xi'an.

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The 'Covid Army'

Strict Chinese policies have helped to contain the virus in recent years. However, the "draconian" methods of China's "Covid military" are being questioned by critics, including the New York Times.

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The biggest lockdown since Wuhan

The city of Xi'an, the capital of northwestern Shaanxi province, went into lockdown for several weeks in late December and early January. It was described as the biggest lockdown since Wuhan in 2019.

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One of the historical capitals of China

Xi'an is one of the historical capitals of China. Almost 13 million people live there.

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Home of the Terracotta Army

The city is also home to the mausoleum of the first Qin Emperor and the world-famous Terracotta Army.

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A few hundred cases

The provincial capital had an average of 135 new Covid cases per day and virtually no deaths at the end of December, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Can China's merciless 'Covid Army' handle Omicron?
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Urgent measures

That figure was more than enough for the Chinese authorities to close the city in December 2021. Residents were given little time to prepare.

Can China's merciless 'Covid Army' handle Omicron?
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Compare it to other places in the world...

By comparison, the Spanish capital Madrid at the same time had an average of 12,000 new cases a day, while the city only has half the population of Xi'an. Madrid was not in lockdown

Or think of Amsterdam in January 2022: about 23,000-26,000 positive tests per week in a city that is fifteen times smaller than Xi'an. And yet the city remained open there too.

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The people of Xi'an complained

During the weeks of the lockdown, there was critical talk from the people of Xi'an. That was not easy, because the Chinese authorities closely monitor social media. However, The Guardian reported that, through online platforms such as Weibo, the residents of Xi'an expressed their dismay.

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Food shortages and crises in hospitals

They mainly complained about food shortages and dangerous hospital delays. CNN reported that a heavily pregnant woman who required treatment at Xi'an Gaoxin Hospital was turned away on New Year's Eve for failing to show a Covid test.

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The woman lost her child

The woman lost her baby, which caused a lot of outrage on social media. The hospital staff told CNN that they had to reject the pregnant woman due to governmental protocol.

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Trading for food

The BBC painted a bleak picture: volunteers provided meals to locals, but there appeared to not be enough food for everyone. The people who ran out had to exchange their possessions for food.

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Hunger

In another case, reported by the New York Times, a young man was beaten up by two officers that caught him trying to break the lockdown. The young man said he hadn't eaten for several days.

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Big Brother is watching you

The 'Covid army' consists not only of officers and bureaucrats but also of internet users who seek out and tackle critical voices.

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Censorship is normal in China

Incidentally, such internet censorship is not new in China. You can even get into trouble there with something as innocuous as a picture of Winnie the Pooh.

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Criticism is crushed

Much of the criticism that was posted online has since been removed from social media or buried under an avalanche of comments defending the Chinese government and its policies.

Can China's merciless 'Covid Army' handle Omicron?
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40,000 people in quarantine

Meanwhile, more than 40,000 Xi'an residents have been forced to move to special quarantine "hotels."

Can China's merciless 'Covid Army' handle Omicron?
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First the virus, then the dignity

"For officials, suppressing the virus comes first," writes New York Times China correspondent Li Yuan. "People's life, well-being and dignity come much later."

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A tap on the fingers

The Chinese authorities have responded in their own way to the criticism that has circulated. They have fired a number of senior officials in Xi'an's government. One of them is the director general of the Gaoxin hospital.

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Scapegoats

The head of Xi'an's health commission has formally apologized to the woman who lost her child. Online comments, picked up by the New York Times, report that it is mainly the lower-ranking officials who are being scapegoated. Those who were really responsible for the measures remained unaffected.

Can China's merciless 'Covid Army' handle Omicron?
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Back to normal?

After a few weeks of strict lockdown, corona cases in the city have been reduced to a minimum. Slowly, the government has reopened communication with the outside world and daily life in Xi'an.

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A strict approach helps

There is no denying that China's actions have been effective, especially when compared to some of the mistakes the United States, the United Kingdom and other Western countries have made in fighting the virus.

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But is it all worth it?

However, there is a tension between, on the one hand, a zero-covid policy and, on the other hand, the individual freedom of citizens.

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Endemism stopped

Some fear China's zero-covid policy is an obstacle to making the pandemic endemic. In this way, the country prevents the virus from becoming a constant but only weak scourge of daily life.

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Disadvantages of China's Zero-Covid Policy

Yanzhong Huang of the International Relations Council told CNN that the downsides of the zero-Covid policy will become apparent as a more contagious strain enters the country. That is almost unavoidable.

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"China is not ready for the Omicron variant"

"China is neither epidemiologically nor psychologically prepared for the Omikron variant," Huang told CNN. "We don't know if it's feasible to deal with multiple transferable variants."

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March 2022: many new infections

A month after the end of the Winter Games, which had been quiet in terms of corona policy, a new peak in the number of Covid-19 cases can be seen. Huang was right: China's zero-Covid policy is no match for Omicron.

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How is the Covid army going to solve that?

Severe clusters of the Omikron variant can be found in the cities of Shanghai, Qingdao, Dongguan and Hong Kong. As Bloomberg reports, authorities in densely populated cities and economic hubs "are faced with the complicated task of controlling the number of cases without imposing serious disruptions."

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