SHENZHEN — When the number of Covid-19 cases began to rise in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen last week, Robin Chen got into his car and fled to nearby Huizhou.

It wasn’t because he feared the virus – many of his overseas friends caught it and recovered – but he didn’t want to lose his freedom again.

After playing golf and surfing on the Huizhou coast, he said, “I hope and think there is no reason for our government to continue this policy.

Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong, was put on lockdown last weekend, and Chen returned after curbs were partially lifted.

Many in China say they are fed up with and frustrated by China’s fixation on methods to stem the spread of Covid-19, and how the coronavirus can be reduced to a non-lethal form. Noting what appears to have mutated, the majority of cases in China have been classified as mild or asymptomatic.

China is following a zero Covid policy with lockdowns, frequent testing and quarantines in affected areas.

This policy has kept the number of cases very low, but this year has started to take a toll, both economically and psychologically, due to the continued outbreak of the particularly contagious Omicron subspecies.

This measure created a desperate scene. People panicked after being informed by IKEA outlets in Shanghai and tech giant Tencent’s Shenzhen headquarters that venues were closed because they were linked to Covid-19 cases.Reuters , has not independently verified the footage widely shared online.

Hardline and formulaic practices are also despised. Authorities in Chengdu were criticized after a social media video showed residents were ordered not to leave their high-rise apartments and adhered to the lockdown, even after a major earthquake rocked their homes.

Many residents of cities such as Shenzhen, Shanghai and Chengdu, China’s largest metropolises, have expressed widespread anxiety about what will happen if even one case is found nearby.

“Since the virus first appeared, we wore masks, had PCR tests, got vaccinated and boosted, but almost three years later we were locked down again and again.” said Yan Yuegao, supply chain manager in Shenzhen. .

“One of the most important things in business is certainty. Imagine you have to travel, but you don’t know when or where it will stop. How can you plan? ?”

“too sensitive”

As most of the world chooses to live with the virus, China insists a Covid-free policy is needed to prevent the health system from being overwhelmed and an unacceptable loss of life. Yes, officials said in July that only 61% of Chinese people over the age of 80 had completed their first dose of the vaccine.

According to China’s National Health Commission, the mainland has had 144,014 symptomatic Covid cases this year. Count asymptomatic cases separately.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is expected to secure an unprecedented third term as party leader at next month’s Communist Party Congress, has repeatedly said the policy is “correct and effective.” Chinese officials continue to describe the coronavirus situation as “serious and complicated” and warn they will not tolerate criticism of their policies.

This week, the chief economist at state-owned Huatai Securities, one of China’s biggest brokerages, released a memo saying Covid’s death rate may be lower than the flu. That has led social media users to speculate whether voicing such an opinion indicates that zero Covid could be eased.

By late Thursday, many blogs that reposted the post had been taken down. Huatai did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and there was no indication from officials that the policy would change soon.

“This topic is too sensitive,” said one Weibo user. – Reuters

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