China announced on November 7 a relaxation of its COVID-19 prevention measures.

Accordingly, China’s health ministry told a news conference in Beijing that Covid cases with mild or no symptoms will be isolated at home if they choose.

Before, any positive case could be hauled off willy-nilly by bus to a quarantine facility. These facilities were often located a long way out of town and had substandard facilities, no medical care, and patients had to pay for room and board for the Chinese government.

The new rules also dropped many of its quarantine and testing requirements and curtailed the ability of local leaders to impose lockdowns.

Therefore, the local authorities must have a worthy cause to label “high risk” areas and can no longer impose forcible confinement or barriers in areas under lockdown.

The new rules also said, “Non-high-risk areas shall not restrict the flow of people and shall not suspend work, production, or business.” 

Some argued that it might be related to recent anti-lockdown protests across China.

Radio Free Asia cited Former Hong Kong Baptist University politics professor Benson Wong saying, “Beijing is never going to admit that these policy changes are due to the protests, but everyone can see it’s happened because of the ‘white paper’ revolution.” 

Wong referred to the protests where people, college students in particular, held up blank white sheets of paper to protest against the Chinese government.

An article posted by the “Hebei Communist Youth League,” a mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, reinforced this argument.

The article said, “A few days ago, opinions on epidemic prevention and control measures in some places appeared more intensively online and offline. Through timely communication and improvement, the matter has subsided.”

However, the Wall Street Journal cited some sources familiar with the matter that said that China’s leadership didn’t view the protests as a grave political threat to the Communist Party. 

The Journal also reported that about a month ago, when Foxconn’s Zhengzhou factory was in chaos due to antivirus restrictions, Terry Gou, the founder of Foxconn, sent a letter to Chinese leaders.

This turmoil started at the end of October when hundreds of its workers fled the facility in Zhengzhou over discontent and poor living conditions under COVID rules at the site.

The situation became worse in late November, amid tensions over wage problems and fears of spreading infection, protests erupted at Foxconn’s Zhengzhou factory. Hundreds of workers clashed with police officers.

The founder of Foxconn asked for more transparency from authorities about curbs on Foxconn’s workers.

He also warned that the regime’s strict COVID-controlled measures could threaten the position of the world’s second economy in global supply chains.  

Before Mr. Gou’s letter, the Chinese authorities usually emphasize the severity of the disease and the potential long-term health implications. But after that, the opinion began to change. The People’s Daily, a  mouthpiece run by the Communist Party, posted an article in its Health Times that the symptoms of COVID were often short-lived and mild.

However, these loosening of regulations came because the government was afraid of protests or, for whatever reason, now China plunged into new chaos.

The chaos is reflected in the overcrowding of hospitals.

Shijiazhuang internet users revealed on December 7 that the Second Provincial Hospital was supposedly overcrowded.

Many extremely ill patients could not find any bed. They had to lie on the ground in the waiting area. In the corner of the hospital corridor, another patient was covered with a cloth over the face and was suspected of being dead.

In Beijing, the situation is the same.

On the morning of December 9, at the Children’s Hospital Beijing, nearly 70 people, including parents holding their children, waited for more than an hour to be called into the clinic.

At Chaoyang Hospital, the situation was worse, with about 100 people lining up in sub-zero temperatures outside the clinic.

Hospitals are full of patients, and the pharmacies are running out of medicine when mainlanders flock to drug stores. 

The Straits Times reporter visited some pharmacies in Beijing. At least four of them ran out of medicine for cold and fever, as well as COVID-19 testing kits. 

A pharmacy in Beijing’s Dongcheng district even closed at 2 pm.

An employee at another Beijing pharmacy said her store also had run out of cold and fever medicines.

She exclaimed, “Some of them, unfortunately, took much more than they needed. It could be enough for a year!”

However, not everywhere is as busy as hospitals and pharmacies. Public nucleic acid testing sites have been shut down, but it’s caused a different kind of chaos.

Mr. Zhang, a resident in Wuhan, told Radio Free Asia that there are many contradictions in the current policy. 

The nucleic acid testing sites only serve from 8 am to 10 am, and many testing sites have been closed one after another, leading to long lines. 

Although under the new regulations, people are not required to be tested, some places still require scanning codes to enter and exit.

In Beijing, the situation was the same as in Wuhan.

Some said they came to be tested because they work in the hospitality and food service industries, where testing is still required.

 One food delivery driver Zhang Lan said he needed to be tested because “it’s the company’s request” to avoid infecting customers.

At a shopping mall, the guards check customers’ health codes even though they no longer require negative COVID tests.

Mr. Zhang complained that people wouldn’t be allowed in if they didn’t scan the code. Every place has its own protection policy. The community next to him does not have a protection point, but his community does.

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