China Facing largest outbreak of COVID-19 cases in a month, complicating his preparations for a major Communist Party meeting where Xi Jinping is expected to expand his power and demand another term in office. Provincial and local officials have vowed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus from “spreading” to the capital, Beijing, where the meeting will take place.
Daily COVID-19 numbers doubled in the past week, To about 1,400 cases on Friday, in a country of 1.4 billion people, a number that is still small by global standards. But the Chinese authorities are under enormous pressure to ensure the party congress, which begins on October 16, is not disturbed.
They have responded by increasing restrictions that many already consider excessive. They are locking down regions and cities and requiring mass testing and quarantines, disrupting the lives of millions of people and generating public outrage.
The authorities adhere to their policy of “COVID Zero” Elimination of infection, despite the enormous economic and social cost of the strategy. Xi has made “COVID Zero” a political necessity, linking policy support to that of the Communist Party, as he seeks to praise China’s success in curbing infection as a sign of the supremacy of Beijing’s authoritarian establishment.
China’s epidemic strategy “Almost a political campaign to show loyalty to Xi Jinping himself”Willy Lam, associate professor of politics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said. “This makes local officials more anxious because they all want to stay in Xi Jinping’s good graces.”
COVID-19 infections increased in part due to the week of the country’s National Day holiday, which began on October 1. Despite calls from health officials for people to limit travel, many have flocked to tourist spots. Now, stranded after flights and trains cancelled.
Closure Punished residents of less developed areas. Shortages of food and medicine were common in those areas, leading residents to turn to social media with complaints and requests for help.
The rapidly spreading omicron variant has steadily slipped through tough restrictions imposed by China. Xinjiang officials They had to admit that the flaws in their approach It led to the spread of cases from the region to other major provinces and cities, including Beijing.
Liu Sushi, vice president of Xinjiang, admitted this week that the region of 22 million is facing the toughest public health emergency in its history. He said some officials have been negligent in their work, failing to properly implement measures to quell infection.
Liu said the measures, such as mandatory mass testing, They may have contributed to the spread of the virusSome health care workers who do not wear adequate protection have become infected.
On Tuesday, Xinjiang effectively banned residents and visitors from leaving, barred all trains and buses from leaving the region and halted most flights. But such blocks can lead to more problems.
Last month, residents of Yining, a city in Xinjiang, flooded social media platforms to order food and other provisions, including sanitary pads and medicine, during an extended lockdown. The lack of daily necessities, as well as the chaotic implementation of attempts to curb the outbreak, They have already forced local officials to admit wrongdoing.
Similar problems in other regions, most notably in Shanghai earlier this year and in Tibet a few weeks ago, have sparked anger over the human and economic cost of the crackdown.
In the southwestern province of Yunnan, travelers took to Chinese social networking site Weibo to express their anger at those stranded at Xishuangbanna Airport after flights were canceled at short notice.
On Tuesday, health authorities in Xishuangbana Prefecture tightened restrictions.Which prevented most people from leaving.
In Inner Mongolia, COVID-19 cases rose to nearly 700 on Friday, the highest number among Chinese provinces. Than just a handful a week ago.
At a meeting presided over by Sun Shaocheng, the chief party official in Inner Mongolia, officials were instructed to stop the infection by “killing chickens with a knife to slaughter cows,” a Chinese pun, to indicate that the slaughter was desirable, excessive.
“Act faster, Preventing spread and flooding, especially in Beijing“Since then, many cities and counties in the region have been placed under lockdown,” he said, an official readout.
Exaggeration is becoming more and more the norm. In the tropical island province of Hainan, often known as Chinese Hawaii, the authorities ordered mass testing afterwards Only two cases were detected on Monday. The province recently emerged from the August lockdown of the popular tourist city of Sanya, which has stranded tens of thousands of travelers.
Public anger at closing sometimes He has jumped to extraordinary levels, including last month after a bus carrying quarantined people crashed, killing 27 people in the southern city of Guiyang. On social media, discussions have arisen about whether COVID-19 measures have caused more damage and disruption than the virus itself.
Officials have struggled to fund staff efforts to stop the virus. In many poor areas, local government finances have become strained, especially because of it They tried to impose huge tests, Often by millions of people every few days.
“Very few seats have been sold out,” said Dali Yang, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago. “One of the big challenges is that all of these people have been on the front lines for so long, incentives are starting to wane in certain areas, and some local authorities are running out of money.”