Despite Spike In Covid Cases, People Allowed To Go To Office In This Chinese City: Report


New Delhi: The sprawling Chinese metropolis of Chongqing on Sunday announced that public sector employees testing positive for Covid-19 can go to work “as normal,” CNN reported. It is a remarkable turnaround for a city that only weeks ago had been in the throes of a mass lockdown. This comes as China is quickly unraveling its zero-Covid policy. Local governments are relaxing costly rules around testing, quarantine, and other pandemic policies amid a widespread economic downturn.

Chongqing is one of China’s largest cities, with 32 million residents and an annual GDP of $400 billion. “Asymptomatic and mildly ill employees of the (Communist Party) and government organizations at all levels, enterprises, and institutions can go to work normally after taking protective measures as necessary for their health status and job requirements,” the Chongqing pandemic response office said in a statement published on the municipal government’s website, as reported by CNN.

The statement further said that government agencies would no longer check employees – including police, public school teachers, and other workers – for daily negative Covid tests. Instead, authorities will shift the focus of work from preventing infection to health protection and preventing severe disease, it said.

Jerry Cheng, who works at a state-owned construction company in the city and is currently Covid positive, voiced concerns about the announcement. “I won’t go 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 the new policy was to protect the local economy.

Cheng’s anxiety was reflected on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, on Monday as Chongqing residents reacted to the announcement. Several other places in China, including the eastern city of Wuhu and the province of Zhejiang, also announced similar measures this week. “Why do you need to go and infect healthy people?” read one top comment. Another user wrote: “This is going from one extreme to the other.”

Chongqing, a hub for industry and agriculture, became a Covid hotspot last month. More than a million residents were told not to leave the city unless absolutely necessary, and several rounds of daily mass testing were rolled out, CNN reported. Photos from Chongqing had gone viral online in August, showing huge crowds standing under the sun for hours during a record heat wave as they waited for mandatory Covid tests.

Amid the growing frustration, one Chongqing resident delivered a searing speech in late November criticizing the lockdown of his residential compound, shouting to a cheering crowd: “Without freedom, I would rather die!”

National protests against the zero-Covid policy – ​​and in some cases, against the central leadership itself – broke out just days later, marking the most significant challenge to the Communist Party and Chinese leader Xi Jinping in decades. The country’s rapid rollback of Covid restrictions came soon after.

According to CNN calculations based on a study from Hong Kong researchers released last week, the country’s Covid death toll could reach almost one million over the course of its reopening.

(With Inputs from CNN)


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