In Shenzhen, the unannounced and unprepared end to the “zero cases” policy has left families struggling to survive as the wave of infections floods hospitals and crematoria.
The residents of Shenzhen, one of the most prosperous Chinese cities, told the Lusa agency that they felt “frustrated” and “confused” with Beijing’s decision to lift epidemic prevention measures “without preparation” or a “mitigation strategy”.
The sudden end of the “zero cases” policy, without prior notice or preparation by the health system, has left families fighting for the survival of their elderly, while a wave of infections has flooded the country’s hospitals and crematoriums. .
Yang Qiu, a Chinese living in Shenzhen, a hub for the manufacture of electronic products in southern China, told the Lusa agency that he took his father to one of the largest hospitals in the city, after four days with a fever of 40 degrees and a persistent cough, but that he gave up. after six hours waiting in the ER
“There were a hundred patients ahead of us,” he said. “We went to another hospital, but they told us, bluntly, that they no longer had medicine available,” he added.
“After three years with highly restrictive measures, which generated multiple tragedies and destroyed businesses and jobs, but which could at least have served to buy time to prepare for the reopening, we ended up coming out of the pandemic in a messy and chaotic wayYang said. “So it’s hard to swallow.”
Another Shenzhen resident, who requested anonymity, told Lusa that he had asked a Singapore-based co-worker to send him two boxes of Paxlovid, the antiviral developed by US drugmaker Pfizer and used in patients with severe symptoms. , to give to the country.
In total he paid the equivalent of about 370 euros. “But this is a privilege, because I belong to the upper middle class and have contacts abroad,” she said. “I can’t imagine the situation in the interior of the country.”
Located on the border with Hong Kong, Shenzhen is home to some of the country’s leading technology companies, including the Huawei telecommunications group, the BYD car manufacturer and the Internet giant Tencent. The city’s GDP stood at US$471 billion in 2021, ahead of Hong Kong or Singapore, two major financial centers in Asia.
The city, a sleepy fishing village until it was designated a “laboratory” in China’s opening up to a market economy in the 1980s, has a population made up mainly of young migrant workers, mitigating the impact of the avalanche. of infections that spread. It followed the dismantling of the “zero covid” strategy last December.
In the interior of the country, with a mostly elderly population and few health resources, the impact of the disease has not yet been evaluated.
Yanzhong Huang, an epidemiologist from a village in northeast China, currently leads research on global health issues at the Council on Foreign Relations, a think-tank (group of experts) based in New York, considered it “very difficult” to find “reliable” information about what happens in the field.
In an interview with Lusa, the specialist, who has a doctorate in political science from the University of Chicago, said that, due to the dismantling of the nucleic acid testing system and the shortage of rapid antigen tests, many people in his homeland developed symptoms but could not confirm if they were infected with the virus.
“Urban families go to the hospital for treatment and can tell if they are positive, but in rural areas for many people it is just a natural process: they get infected and end up dying at home”, he described.
The researcher also admitted that there is political pressure to attribute deaths from Covid-19 to chronic diseases and described as “unconvincing” the official Chinese data, which points to around 60,000 deaths from the virus, in the first five weeks after the uprising. of the restrictions.
The “zero cases” strategy of Covid-19 was assumed by Xi Jinping as a political trump card and proof of the superiority of the Chinese governance model, after the country successfully contained the initial outbreaks of the disease.
The strategy, which was in place in the country for almost three years, included isolating all positive cases and close contacts, locking down entire cities for weeks or months, carrying out constant mass testing and closing borders, causing growing popular discontent and the economic data collapse.
“There was so much concern on the part of the leadership to maintain the ‘zero cases’ policy for reasons of political legitimacy, but that legitimacy was lost in two days,” described a Chinese journalist from Shenzhen. “What was the purpose of all this then?” he asked.