China launched a vehement defense of the steps taken to get ready for the shift in tactic on Thursday, accusing “certain Western media” of bias, slander, and political manipulation in their coverage of China’s unexpected abandonment of its stringent “zero-COVID” policy.
A dramatic increase in instances followed the decision to cease mass testing and quarantines in December, with certain hospitals and crematoriums becoming overcrowded with casualties.
People’s Daily, the official mouthpiece of the Communist Party, published an editorial highlighting China’s “optimization and control methods” and denounced news from sources they did not name as “totally biased hype, smear, and political manipulation with ulterior purposes.”
Life has mostly returned to normal in most of China after the initial wave of new cases, but officials have expressed concern about the virus spreading farther into the countryside during the current Lunar New Year travel surge.
Despite this, many communities have “past the peak of the pandemic, and production and life are speeding up to return to normal,” according to the editorial.
The “Zero-COVID” method intended to identify and isolate every infection case and everyone who came into touch with them and even third-party contacts.
It kept millions of people in cities like Shanghai inside their homes for at least two months, many of whom experienced food shortages and lacked access to healthcare.
China vehemently supported the strategy, but it started to be abandoned due to economic pressure.
After unprecedented street protests against the governing party and its leader, Xi Jinping, it took place in Beijing and other major cities.
On January 8, it went a step further and stopped requiring those traveling from abroad to go through time-consuming and expensive quarantines.
China rebuffed criticism of the policy’s excesses from domestic and international quarters, branding earlier requests from the World Health Organization for it to adapt to changes in the virus’s biology as “irresponsible.”
That made the abrupt move to a strategy of only attempting to prevent the most severe incidents in the middle of winter when many people had resisted online censorship to express their rage, all the more startling for the populace.
Testing facilities where enormous queues of people had formed vanished practically immediately, and field hospitals where millions had been quarantined just disbanded.
The WHO and other countries continued to protest about China’s lack of transparency after it stopped sharing data on new cases and fatalities, which it was long suspected of underreporting.
According to unconfirmed estimates, tens of thousands of new topics are reported daily, and up to 85% of the population in some areas has contracted the disease.
Additionally, China has rejected efforts to give more data and information regarding the virus’s origins, which were first discovered in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.
China accused individuals who made the requests of “politicizing” the situation.
The government has also criticized foreign nations that demand tourists from China present a negative virus test, calling the requirement “discriminatory” even though China demands the same of all travelers.
The editorial in the People’s Daily reflected this defensive stance, saying that China had successfully navigated the adjustment period following the “transition” and “shift” of the epidemic prevention policy “thanks to meticulous medical preparations, sufficient production capacity reserves, and strong organizational planning and equipment.”