Chinese megacity Chongqing says people with Covid can go to work ‘as normal’

Hong Kong

The sprawling Chinese metropolis of Chongqing announced on Sunday that public sector workers who tested positive for Covid-19 can go to work “as normal”, a dramatic turnaround for a city that was in a massive lockdown a few weeks ago.

The move As China continues to rapidly unravel its first strict zero-Covid policy, local governments across the nation have relaxed costly rules on testing, quarantine and other pandemic policies amid a widespread economic downturn.

“(Communist Party) and government organizations (Communist Party) and workers at all levels, companies and organizations who are asymptomatic and sick can go to work normally after taking protective measures necessary for their health status and work requirements,” he said. the Chongqing pandemic response office. Statement published on the website of the municipal government.

He added that government agencies would no longer verify that workers (including police, public school teachers and other workers) have daily negative Covid tests. Instead, authorities will shift the focus of their work from infection prevention to health protection and the prevention of serious illness, he said.

The sudden turnaround is particularly surprising in Chongqing, one of China’s largest cities, with a population of 32 million and an annual GDP of $400 billion.

Jerry Cheng, who works for a state-owned construction company in the city and is now Covid-positive, expressed concern at the announcement.

“I’m not going unless they call my name,” he told CNN. “It’s definitely not a good thing to have a group of infected people working together,” he said, adding that the new policy was to protect the local economy.

Cheng’s anxiety was reflected on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, on Monday as residents of Chongqing reacted to the announcement.

“Why do you have to go and infect healthy people?” read a comment above. Another user wrote: “This goes from one extreme to the other.”

Several other parts of China, including the eastern city of Wuhu and Zhejiang province, announced similar measures this week.

Chongqing, an industrial and agricultural hub, became a Covid hotspot last month. More than a million residents were told not to leave the city unless absolutely necessary, and numerous daily tests were carried out.

When Chinese Vice Premier Sun Chunlan visited Chongqing on November 22, he urged local authorities to take “swift and decisive measures” to contain the outbreak, identifying positive cases and their close contacts, according to the state-run Global Times.

But by then, some residents were losing patience. Three years of Zero-Covid affected the economy, disrupted daily life and people’s lifestyles.

Photos from Chongqing went viral online in August, with huge crowds standing in the sun for hours in a record wave as they waited for mandatory tests for Covid. In the background, plumes of smoke from wildfires rose above the sky.

Reflecting his growing frustration, a resident of Chongqing gave a scathing speech in late November criticizing the blockade of his residence, shouting to a cheering crowd: “Without freedom, I’d rather die!”

Nationwide protests against the zero-Covid policy – and in some cases against the central leadership itself – erupted within days, marking the most significant challenge to the Communist Party and Chinese leader Xi Jinping in decades.

The country’s rapid rollback of Covid restrictions soon followed. And while the easing of rules, such as allowing Covid patients to be isolated at home rather than taken to a government quarantine center, is a long-awaited relief for many, the surge in cases has also caused widespread anxiety among the largely sheltered population. from the virus in 2020.

According to CNN estimates based on a study by Hong Kong researchers released last week, the country’s Covid death toll could reach nearly a million upon reopening.

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