Beijing – China on Thursday accused “some Western media” of bias, defamation and political manipulation in their coverage ChinaAn abrupt end to its strict “zero COVID” policy, issuing a strong defense of the actions taken to prepare for the change of strategy.
The move in December to end mass testing and quarantines led to a sharp rise in cases, with some hospitals and crematoriums overwhelmed with victims.
An editorial in the People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party, identified what it described as “Chinese optimization and control measures” and criticized reports from unidentified media outlets as “utterly biased noise, distortion and political manipulation with ulterior motives”.
Since the first wave of new cases, life in most of China has largely returned to normal, though officials have expressed concern that the virus could spread further in the countryside during the Lunar New Year travel peak now underway.
Despite this, the editorial said that many localities have “passed the peak of the epidemic, and production and life are accelerating to return to normal.”
“Zero-COVID,” as the strategy became known, sought to trace and isolate each case of infection, along with those they had been in contact with and even third-party contacts. Millions of people in cities like Shanghai have been confined to their homes for two months or more, with many suffering food shortage and inaccessibility Health Care.
China vigorously defended the policy but began to dismantle it under economic pressure and after extremely rare street protests erupted in Beijing and other major cities denouncing the ruling party and its leader, Xi Jinping. On January 8, it took another step by removing the requirement that arrivals from abroad undergo a lengthy and costly quarantine.
China rejected external and internal criticism of the policy’s excesses, denouncing previous calls from the World Health Organization to adapt to changes in the nature of the virus, describing it as “irresponsible”.
A sudden shift in the middle of winter to a policy of only seeking to prevent the most severe cases has left residents even more alarmed, with many defying censors to vent their anger online. Almost overnight, testing stations where people stood in long lines disappeared, while field hospitals used to simply isolate millions.
China has also stopped publishing numbers on new cases and deaths, which it has long suspected of being underreported, leading to more complaints from the World Health Organization and foreign countries about a lack of transparency. Unconfirmed estimates now put the number of new cases in the tens of thousands per day, with up to 85% of the population infected in some counties.
China has also rejected calls to release more data and provide more information about the origin of the virus, which was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, accusing those making requests of “politicizing” the issue.
The government has also criticized countries that require travelers from China to show a negative virus test, calling the demand “discriminatory” even though it requires the same from anyone entering China.
This defensive stance was reflected in an editorial of the People’s Daily, which said: “Thanks to meticulous medical preparations, adequate production capacity reserves, robust organizational planning and equipment, China has smoothly passed the adjustment period after the ‘transition’ and ‘transformation’ of epidemic prevention policy.”
“In the face of China’s prevention and control achievements, any political manipulation is pale and helpless,” she added, citing the endorsement of academics in Nigeria, Kenya and Russia, all close Chinese diplomatic partners.
“All parties must focus on combating the epidemic itself, avoid any words or actions that would politicize the epidemic, strengthen solidarity and cooperation, and work together to defeat the epidemic,” the editorial said.