Image source, Getty Images
Demonstrations have broken out across China over the government’s strict lockdown measures.
Protesters are calling for rules to be eased, even though China is seeing a surge in cases.
What are China’s lockdown rules?
China has one of the toughest anti-Covid regimes in the world. Measures include:
Local authorities must impose strict lockdowns – even if only a handful of Covid cases are foundMass testing is carried out in places where cases have been reportedPeople with Covid are isolated at home, or placed under quarantine at government facilitiesBusinesses and schools are closed in lockdown areasShops must also close – except for those selling foodLockdowns last until no new infections are reportedTens of millions of people have been living under some kind of lockdown.
Image source, China News Service
Image caption, Schools have been closed in Shanghai
Some rules, however, have been relaxed.
Isolation is now for only eight days, rather than 10 – five days at an isolation centre, plus three at home.
China is also now allowing international arrivals for the first time since March 2022.
How many Covid cases does China have?
Recently, China has seen its first deaths from Covid-19 in six months.
On Monday, it recorded 40,052 new Covid cases.
That is up from 39,506 on Sunday and is higher than the previous peak, back in April. The number of cases a week has reached almost 200,000.
New infections have been reported throughout China, but the worst affected cities have been Guangzhou, in the south, and Chongqing in the southwest.
They are recording 7,000 or 8,000 new Covid cases every day.
In Beijing, about 4,000 new cases a day are being reported.
However, the overall number of infections and deaths in China is still low, compared with other countries.
What vaccines is China using?
Only about half of people in China aged 80 and over have received their first vaccinations.
Less than 60% of those aged 60 to 69 are fully vaccinated.
There are doubts over whether the main vaccines used in China – Sinovac and Sinopharm – are effective against Omicron, the most widespread strain.
Western countries have offered China more effective vaccines, but China has refused to use them widely.
The government has given no official explanation. However, some people think China’s government fears admitting that it has failed to develop adequate vaccines of its own.
The World Health Organization has urged China to change its method of dealing with Covid.
However, Chinese President Xi Jinping has said the zero Covid policy is “scientific and effective”.
Why is China still trying to achieve zero Covid?
China is following a policy it calls “dynamic zero” – taking action wherever Covid flares up in order to eradicate it.
Image source, Getty Images
Image caption, China has a programme of mass testing for Covid
China’s government says this saves lives, because uncontrolled outbreaks would put many vulnerable people at risk, including the elderly.
Strict lockdowns mean China’s death toll has stayed low ever since the start of the pandemic – the official figure is just over 5,200.
This is equal to only three Covid deaths in every million in China, compared with 3,000 per million in the US and 2,400 per million in the UK.
What effect have zero Covid policies had on China’s economy?
In recent months, lockdowns have taken place in several cities.
These include Shenzhen, a city of 17.5 million and technology hub, and Shanghai, a city of 26 million which is a manufacturing, trade and financial hub.
Lockdowns have led to factories and ports being shut for long periods.
They have also affected work with foreign companies.
It means that China’s economy has grown by only 3.9% over the past year, compared with its target of 5.5% for 2022.
Unemployment is rising, especially amongst young people, and the property market is weakening.
China’s lockdown measures are also affecting businesses and consumers in the rest of the world, who have come to rely on China for supplies of goods.
A lockdown at the Foxconn plant in Zhengzhou hit the production of iPhones, leading to fears of a worldwide shortage.
Factory closures have also led to fears of a shortage of toys ahead of Christmas.
Additional reporting by Jeremy Howell.