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China is experiencing the worst covid outbreak since the outbreak of Wuhan

Confined neighborhoods of Shanghai. / AFP

The confinement of Shanghai, with 25 million inhabitants and the port with the most freight traffic, will have a great economic impact

With its ‘covid 0’ policy, based on border closures and massive confinements and tests every time there is an outbreak, China has kept the coronavirus at bay. But it is at a dead end due to the outbreak of the contagious Omicron variant, which has caused the worst wave since the closure of Wuhan and the rest of Hubeia province at the end of January 2020. Without a strategy to get out of the health emergency, Beijing continues to cling to draconian measures while the rest of the world has adapted to living with the virus.

Shanghai has been confined for nine days to test its 25 million inhabitants for the coronavirus and the northeastern province of Jilin, with another 24 million, has been closed for two weeks. Home lockdowns affect millions of people, even in cities where no infections have been detected. Local authorities apply them preventively to avoid being dismissed by the central government.

In these first three months, China has detected seven times more cases of coronavirus than during all of last year. According to the authorities, 95% of infections are mild or asymptomatic. But, after two years of controls and restrictions, psychological fatigue is emerging among the Chinese because they do not see the exit of the pandemic. Proof of this are the fights that have been taking place in recent days between the desperate inmates and the health workers in special suits in charge of monitoring the quarantines, as well as the death of patients who cannot reach hospitals and the suicides of patients who do not receive your medicines.

Vaccines and politics

To this is added the strong economic impact that the confinement of Shanghai will cause not only in China but throughout the world, whose port is the first on the planet in merchandise traffic. A shutdown now will aggravate the already stalled global supply chain. Multinationals such as Toyota, Volkswagen and Audi have closed their factories in Jilin province and others such as Foxconn, a supplier to Apple, and other large technology firms have stopped their activity during the confinement in Shenzhen.

Despite the economic and social cost, the head of the epidemiological committee that advises the Government, Liang Wannian, has warned that China will not change its ‘Covid 0’ policy until it is seen how the contagiousness and lethality of the virus evolve. Although the mortality of Ómicron is lower than that of previous variants, the authorities are aware that the lifting of the restrictions would exponentially shoot up the cases and, as a consequence, the deaths. A cost in lives that they are not willing to assume because the Beijing regime is proud of its low mortality compared to the bleeding that the coronavirus has unleashed in the rest of the world.

Along with suspicions about the effectiveness of Chinese vaccines, the main reason for continuing the confinements is political, since the 20th Congress of the Communist Party will be held in the fall, in which President Xi Jinping will perpetuate himself in power.

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