Three years ago, an unknown virus originating in China began making headlines. With the introduction of COVID-19, the world is now a different place. As a “tripledemic” of COVID, influenza, and RSV sweeps the United States (U.S), China is now confronting the impacts of its “Zero COVID” policies. Strategies to control and limit aren’t as strict as those in 2020, but the country struggles to adjust to mass infections after its citizens demand more personal freedoms.
China’s methods were applauded as the West faced wave after wave of surging cases. But years of tighter restrictions resulted in protests that amplified the collective fatigue of the general population. Mass demonstrations erupted after a fire killed 10 people in Urumqi on Nov. 24. An unspecified number of those killed are believed to have been COVID-positive residents locked in their apartments with no way of escaping. Speculation also suggests that because the city of Xinjiang was under lockdown, emergency response was significantly delayed. In conjunction with growing disapproval, this tragedy and the events it inspired started a conversation about the future of China onward.
Only after Dec. 7, since restrictions have ended, the effects of this change in China resemble late 2021 America. Families reunite. Young people examine the benefits of self-infection. The opportunities for new Coronavirus variants are ever-present, and other familiar activities show similar cycles of behaviors and fears as our own in the U.S. This similarity reflects the inherent fundamental culture of humanity that eclipses that of nationality. Ultimately, the effects of China’s lengthy lockdown on the rest of the world are still unknown.
“New changes are happening every day,” says an American living in Beijing. The lessening of restrictions in China is welcomed with open arms, though reopening has proven to be chaotic: “A lot of people are getting sick.” After living under COVID-Zero policies, most of China’s population ultimately has no immunity to the virus’ ever-evolving variants. Scientists worldwide are anxious as they watch one of the most extensive outbreaks gain momentum. Xi Chen, a global health researcher at Yale University, has gotten insight from China CDC’s director, Xiaofeng Liang, that the first waves of a potential outbreak could infect 60% of its population.
Though criticisms of reopening are plenty and infections are soaring, some people are optimistic. “Yeah, it was annoying not being able to do anything, but things are finally getting better,” says the American expat. China’s reopening is impactful in every aspect of its unfolding. The future of this plan is still unpredictable by experts in all domains.