Beijing sees wave of cases after China abandons ‘zero Covid’

It’s difficult to know exactly how bad things are.

China reported 2,157 new symptomatic infections Thursday, but officials have stopped counting asymptomatic cases and halted mandatory testing. Many people now use rapid test kits at home whose results aren’t often registered, and officials have switched from “prevention” to focusing on “treatment.”

Anecdotally, many people in Beijing describe a widespread outbreak.

“My family is OK, but more than half of my colleagues have Covid right now,” Yueying Wang, 22, a university student who interns at a tech company, told NBC News. 

James Zimmermann, a lawyer, posted on Twitter earlier this week that 90% of his office was sickened.

“This is not a spike, this is a tsunami,” said Jin Dong-Yan, a professor at the University of Hong Kong who studies viral diseases.Until now, China’s policy has stood in stark contrast to the West, which spent much of the last three years yo-yoing in and out of lockdowns while suffering millions of deaths. Meanwhile, Beijing has tried to maintain its policy of imposing harsh limits on people’s daily lives whenever an outbreak flared.

Although direct comparisons are difficult, officially China has suffered just more than 5,200 deaths — compared with nearly 1.1 million in the United States. But repeatedly locking down parts of the nation of 1.4 billion has also wrought huge internal economic damage, while worsening supply chain problems for the rest of the globe.

It also recently caused social unrest in the form of widespread demonstrations, which appeared to be the catalyst for the abrupt policy change. Some even called for Chinese President Xi Jinping to step down — a level of dissent not seen in decades in a country in which freedom of speech is tightly controlled.

However, the dizzying policy shift has not been met by scenes of liberation, with many residents seemingly deciding to lock themselves down in an apparent bid to shelter from the waves of uncertainty and infections that have coincided with the reopening.

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