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EXPLAINED: What are China’s ‘zero-COVID’ measures and why people are protesting against Xi Jinping

New Delhi: China is witnessing unprecedented protests against the strict enforcement of its zero-Covid policy, under which authorities block apartment buildings and even cordon off a neighbourhood once a resident tests positive for the virus, confining millions of people to their homes in an attempt to isolate every infection. Rallies against strict anti-virus measures spread to several cities over the past few days in the biggest show of opposition to the ruling Communist Party in decades. While most protesters have complained about excessive restrictions, some have turned their anger at Xi Jinping, China’s most powerful leader since at least the 1980s. Video posted online showed protestors chanting ‘Xi Jinping! Step down! CCP! Step down!’.

Authorities, however, eased some regulations, in a bid to try to quell public anger. The city government of Beijing announced it would no longer set up gates to block access to apartment compounds where infections are found. Guangzhou, a manufacturing and trade centre that is the biggest hot spot in China’s latest wave of infections, also announced that some residents will no longer be required to undergo mass testing. Urumqi, a northwestern city where a fire killed 10 people and prompted angry questions online about whether firefighters or victims trying to escape were blocked by locked doors or other anti-virus controls, announced markets and other businesses in areas deemed at low risk of infection would reopen this week and public bus service would resume.

Though some anti-virus restrictions have been eased in some places, the ruling Communist Party has affirmed its zero-Covid strategy. Here’s a look at some of the Covid-19 measures in China:

Due to China’s zero-Covid policy, inbound travellers need to take PCR test before flying

Inbound travellers need to take a PCR test before flying and quarantine in a hotel for five days and at home for three days upon arrival.

Prior to updated regulations earlier this month, travellers needed to take two PCR tests before flying and quarantine for seven days in a hotel and three days at home. Earlier the quarantine period was 14 days.

China’s ‘circuit breaker’ policy shut down flights if passengers aboard tested Covid-19 positive

China also ended its “circuit breaker” policy of shutting down a flight for a week or two if a certain percentage of passengers aboard tested positive for Covid-19, with the length of the ban dependent upon how many had the virus.

Travellers, who are close contacts with someone with Covid-19, need to quarantine for 8 days

Travellers on domestic flights, trains or buses who are in close contact with someone with Covid-19 need to quarantine for five days at designated sites, plus three days at home.

Prior to November changes, the quarantine time was longer and the close contacts of persons with close contact to someone with coronavirus also needed to isolate.

People who visited areas in China deemed “high-risk” also need to quarantine for seven days at home.

Individuals in China need to show their personal ‘green code’

Individuals in China also need to show their personal “green code”, which indicates that they are Covid-19 negative, when entering public places like shopping malls and restaurants, or when using public transit.

Everyone must register with their identification papers, and the code is then displayed through a smartphone app.

Staying “green” means not contracting Covid-19, not being a close contact of someone with the virus, and not visiting areas deemed to be a risk.

If there is an outbreak in your area, local authorities may require regular testing to keep the code green.

In Beijing at the moment, residents also need to undergo a rapid Covid-19 test at least every 48 hours at a government-approved facility.

Covid-19 lockdowns in China

Chinese authorities react quickly and decisively to any detection of Covid-19 and lock down parts of, or entire cities. The decision on what to lock down depends upon the scale of the outbreak of the virus, and smaller lockdowns of buildings, building compound areas or city districts are common.

Entire apartment building units are also locked down if a single resident is found to have contracted the virus, and people are not allowed to leave for at least five days. Food and other essential supplies can be ordered for delivery.

Office buildings are also locked down if someone in the building tests positive for coronavirus until the building can be disinfected.

At the moment the central urban area of Chongqing, with about 10.3 million people, is in lockdown as is part of Guangzhou, a city of 10.5 million people.

In April this year, around 190 million people in 23 Chinese cities were under full or partial lockdowns.

Other Covid-19 measures in China

The ruling Communist Party has also put many other regulations in place that would be familiar to most from the early months of the pandemic. Social distancing is encouraged, and people have to wear masks in public venues.

In areas where there is believed to be a risk of Covid-19 transmission, there are restrictions on large gatherings, restaurants are closed for indoor dining, and enhanced disinfection measures are required at public venues.

Facilities where people are deemed most at risk, like nursing homes, have so-called “closed-loop management” plans in place.

(With agency inputs)

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