Xi Jinping says ‘persistence is victory’ as Covid restrictions return to Shanghai and Beijing

Xi Jinping has reiterated China’s commitment to zero-Covid, declaring “persistence is victory”, as Shanghai and Beijing were hit with new lockdowns, shutdowns, and mass testing drives just a week after the cities celebrated the easing of restrictions.

In response to China’s worst outbreak of the pandemic, Shanghai spent months under an arduous and strict citywide lockdown, while Beijing authorities imposed localised lockdowns, venue and public transport shutdowns, and work-from-home orders. In the last week both had begun easing restrictions, with authorities praising the containment of the community outbreaks of the Omicron variant.

But on Thursday both cities went back on high alert for Covid cases, with new lockdowns in Shanghai districts home to millions of people, and the shutdown of entertainment venues in Beijing’s populous Chaoying district. The return to restrictions sparked alarm and frustration among residents.

On Friday, China’s official state media reported that the president demanded officials effectively coordinate epidemic prevention with economic and social development, and “resolutely overcome some of the difficulties”. According to the Xinhua report, Xi made the remarks on Wednesday while visiting Sichuan.

“Persistence is victory,” Xi said. “We must unswervingly adhere to the general policy of ‘dynamic clearing’, strengthen confidence, eliminate interference, overcome paralysing thoughts, pay close attention to the key tasks of epidemic prevention and control, and resolutely consolidate the hard-won results of epidemic prevention and control.”

China’s government remains steadfast on its “dynamic clearing” policy of reacting swiftly to outbreaks in order to bring community case numbers back to zero. The resource intensive policy includes mass quarantine centres for people considered close contacts – often as far removed as being a neighbour in the same building but several floors away. Its impact has had a significant effect on China’s economy.

Experts predict that China will struggle to meet its economic growth target of about 5.5% this year as virus lockdowns force business shutdowns and snarl supply chains.

Half of Shanghai’s residents, about 14 million people, were this week ordered to undergo testing. All residents of the affected districts, which include Pudong and Xuhai, have been ordered to stay inside until it is completed, with some residents were sent notices detailing two days of confinement and 12 days of testing.

A lockdown was also imposed in Minhang district. New barricades were again erected around some buildings or streets. Hundreds of thousands of people are still unable to leave their homes, and a city health official said Thursday that residents in seven districts must get swabbed from Saturday under a drive to “test all who should be tested”.

“We must not be slack to the slightest degree or let down our guard,” said the official.

The news prompted alarm and unease among residents, with reports of crowded grocery stores as people again stocked up on essentials, just days after celebrating a return to a more normal life.

Officials on Thursday traced three Shanghai infections to the Red Rose, a popular beauty salon in the trendy former French Concession area of the Xuhui district. The shop, which reopened in 1 June when the city did, had served 502 customers from 15 of Shanghai’s 16 districts in the past eight days, a local media outlet, The Paper, reported.

“When is this ever going to end?,” one Weibo user commented on the Red Rose. “I just want to have a normal life.”

“I do not know what else we can do, can we prevent infectious diseases?” said another. “We do nucleic acid tests every day, we worry every day! As long as there are humans, there must be infectious diseases! I voluntarily face life, old age, illness and death! Friends, what do you think?”

Some urged people to wait for the epidemic to clear before going out to “fool around”. Others said blaming people who caught the virus was a case of “Stockholm syndrome”.

“Why would anyone scold the infected people? They did not violate the law, and this is the freedom of the people,” one said.

China reported 73 new local infections on Friday, including eight in Beijing and 11 in Shanghai, according to the National Health Commission.

With Reuters

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