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New Year's Eve boosts hope in China, censors target online COVID content

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WUHAN/BEIJING, Dec 31 (Reuters) – China’s New Year’s Eve has sparked a flurry of online thinking, including some criticism, about the strict zero-COVID policy the country has adhered to for nearly three years and the impact of its abrupt reversal this month.

The sudden change of living with the virus has caused a wave of infections across the country, a further decline in economic activity and international concernwith Britain and France being the latest countries to impose restrictions on travelers from China.

Three years into the pandemic, China moved this month to align itself with a world that has largely reopened to live with COVID, after unprecedented protests that have become a de facto referendum against the policy zero COVID championed by President Xi Jinping.

The protests were the strongest display of public defiance under Xi’s decade-long presidency, and coincided with grim growth figures for China’s $17 trillion economy.

On Saturday, residents of the central Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the pandemic, expressed hope that the new year would bring better fortunes.

Several people in Wuhan have lamented the extent to which the virus has spread after all pandemic curbs were lifted, including one, Chen Mei, 45, saying she just hopes that in 2023 her teenage daughter can resume. normal long-term prices.

“When she can’t go to school and can only take online classes, that’s definitely not an effective way to learn,” she said.

“Children don’t have such good self-discipline. And then for us adults, sometimes, because of epidemic controls, we’ve been locked up at home. That definitely had an impact.”

Thousands of users on China’s Weibo Twitter slammed the removal of a viral video made by local outlet Netease News that compiled real-life stories from 2022 that captivated Chinese audiences.

Many stories included in the video, which could not be seen or shared on national social media platforms on Saturday, highlighted the hardships faced by ordinary Chinese people due to the strict COVID policy.

Weibo and Netease did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A Weibo hashtag on the video garnered nearly 4 million views before disappearing from platforms around noon on Saturday. Social media users created new hashtags to keep the comments flowing.

“What a perverse world, you can only sing the praises of the fake but you can’t show the real life,” wrote one user, attaching a screenshot of a blank page that shows up when searching hashtags.

The disappearance of the videos and hashtags, seen by many as an act of censorship, suggests that the Chinese government still views the narrative surrounding its handling of the disease as a politically sensitive issue.


The wave of new infections has overwhelmed hospitals and funeral homes across the country, with lines of hearses outside crematoria fueling public concern.

China, a country of 1.4 billion people, reported one new COVID death For Friday, the same as the day before – figures that do not correspond to the experience of other countries after their reopening.

British health data firm Airfinity said on Thursday that around 9,000 people in China were likely dying from COVID every day. Cumulative deaths in China since December 21. 1 have likely reached 100,000, with infections totaling 18.6 million, he said.

At Wuhan Central Hospital, where former COVID whistleblower Li Wenliang worked and later died of the virus in early 2020, patient numbers were down on Saturday from the rush of recent weeks, A hazmat suit wearing a fever worker outside the hospital clinic told Reuters.

“This wave is almost over,” the worker said.

A pharmacist whose shop is next to the hospital said most townspeople have now been infected and recovered.

“It’s mostly older people who are getting sick from it now,” he said. “They have underlying conditions and may have breathing problems, lung infections or heart problems.”


In the first indication of the balance sheet of the Chinese giant manufacturing sector Since the COVID policy change, Saturday’s data showed factory activity fell for the third consecutive month in December and at the fastest pace in nearly three years.

Along with the growing economic toll, the rise in infections after restrictions were lifted has also raised international concerns, particularly about the possibility of a new, stronger variant emerging from China.

Britain and France have become the latest countries to require travelers from China to provide negative COVID-19 tests. The United States, South Korea, India, Italy, Japan and Taiwan have all imposed similar measures.

the World Health Organization On Friday, he again urged Chinese health authorities to regularly share specific, real-time information on the country’s COVID situation as he continues to assess the latest spike in infections.

China’s narrow criteria for identifying deaths caused by COVID-19 will underestimate the real tool of the pandemic and could make it more difficult to communicate the best ways for people to protect themselves, health experts have warned.

Reporting by Martin Quinn Pollard, Tingshu Wang and Xiaoyu Yin in Wuhan, Eduardo Baptista in Beijing; Written by Sumeet Chatterjee; Editing by Neil Fullick and Kim Coghill

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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