The Daily Telegraph

China’s Covid-free cities told mass testing must continue

- By Simina Mistreanu

CHINESE cities that escape Covid outbreaks should neverthess carry out mass PCR testing regularly, a senior health official has said in a directive that goes further than earlier advice.

Li Dachuan, the deputy director of the National Health Commission’s Bureau of Medical Administra­tion made the announceme­nt, contradict­ing guidelines issued by the Commission in June. Then it restricted mass testing to Covid hot spots, cementing China’s position as one of the last bastions of the zero-covid policy.

Since September, 60million people in at least 33 cities have been under some form of lockdown and near-daily testing, according to Chinese magazine Caixin.

The push to intensify Xi Jinping’s zero-covid policy comes as vaccine uptake among the elderly remains low, and officials fear loosening restrictio­ns could result in a surge in deaths. The health commission reported 12,284 new Covid infections in the past week.

Thursday’s announceme­nt caused anger online as the already tough measures are taking their toll on the population and breeding resentment.

Even some cities not officially under lockdown, such as Beijing, require residents to present recent negative PCR test results to enter restaurant­s, shopping malls and grocery stores.

Earlier this week, footage emerged of residents in the city of Chengdu being barred from leaving their homes by men in hazmat suits after a 6.8 magnitude earthquake.

The order triggered anger at authoritie­s. “I’m numb now to these policies,” wrote one Weibo user. “For rice’s sake, they have done whatever it takes.”

Another wrote: “The rage is immense” and one user wondered if China would ever “return to normal in this lifetime”.

♦ A five-yearly political congress due to be held next month is expected to confirm that Mr Xi will serve an unpreceden­ted third term in office.

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