The Shift of Chinas Zero Covid Policy


Photo by Andy Mabbett

 November, the laws and rules of China’s ‘Zero Covid’ policy were still aggressive and strong. Just a month later, in December, there was a total change in law and policy regarding Covid in China. It seems as of now that there is no plan.  

The ‘Zero Covid’ policy is China’s strict way of maintaining and preventing Covid which has caused major economic damage and extensive frustration throughout China and the rest of the world. While other countries were steering towards normal life a few years into Covid, China kept these strict rules which caused a lot of controversy. 

Constant Covid testing people often required to be allowed to enter buildings or public facilities, possible or suspected cases being forced to quarantine at government supervised facilities or at home even from far-flung or potential contact, control tactics being used for example locking down entire cities, communities, and buildings, and borders being shut down are all examples of how extreme this policy is. 

Although effective, as deaths from Covid were about 6,000 in China with a population of 1.4 billion, these policies had a huge impact on daily life and were oppressive in day to day life for the citizens of China. 

The government’s rules and presence seemed almost inescapable. The Chinese government tracked people’s health profiles in online databases and travel history through using phone service. Extreme quarantining would take place if in any kind of contact with Covid, this quarantining would take place over long periods of time, often, people were locked in small apartments or houses without being able to even leave the street. 

It’s no wonder why people didn’t embrace this restrictive policy. 

This change in enforcement was an effect of a lot of social disrest and the government coming to the conclusion that the Zero Covid policy is no longer as effective as it once was.

Protests and riots have broken out over the past few months. 

In November of 2022, in Xinjiang China, 10 people died in an apartment fire while being quarantined and locked in their homes. Many say it was because they weren’t allowed to leave their apartments. 

Yangyang Cheng, a Yale Law School scholar says this, “That is a very visceral fear for anyone who’s experienced zero-COVID,”. “Some of them having even their homes or their apartment buildings being boarded up and their fire escapes being wired shut, not being able to escape.” (qtd in this article)

While lifting some of the extreme measures of the ‘Zero Covid’ policy are needed, not having any plan is not ideal. 

Since Covid restrictions have been loosening up since December, Covid cases and outbreaks have been at an all time high. The number of exact deaths is unknown but is far more than 40 since the restrictions have been lifted, which is what has been reported. Satellite images have found mass crowding at China’s crematoriums and funeral homes suggesting that Covid deaths are at an all time high in China.  

Not only does this impact the citizens in China, but the whole globe. Zero Covid has caused detrimental damage to the economy in China and the rest of the world. Businesses were shut down, trade was stopped, markets crashed and borders were shut. As this ¨U turn¨ of Covid policies in China happens, the economy is expected to get better. 

As of now, the future of Covid in China is still unknown but is constantly changing.