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China’s vice-premier signals shift in Covid stance as some lockdowns eased

Sun Chunlan says Omicron less pathogenic as Beijing appears to respond to zero-Covid protests by relaxing some measures

One of China’s most senior pandemic response officials has said the country is entering a “new stage and mission” in the latest indication of the government’s changing approach after mass protests against its zero-Covid policy.

Sun Chunlan, China’s vice-premier, made the comments to national health officials on Wednesday, according to state media outlet Xinhua. It came as several regions including Shanghai began to lift lockdowns despite continuing high case numbers. Vic

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from Coronavirus | The Guardian
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The Guardian view on the future of China’s unrest: more complex than it seems | Editorial

A binary reading of these remarkable zero-Covid protests does not help anyone understand their significance

Among the Communist rhetoric cleverly repurposed by China’s anti-zero-Covid protesters is a phrase that Mao Zedong employed: a single spark can start a prairie fire. When a political system is so rigid, observers can easily fall prey to one of two conflicting tendencies. The first is to seize upon any significant unrest as the first crack in the edifice, which could bring the whole system down – as when the death of Mohamed Bouazizi precipitated the Arab spring. Since such collapses are usually astonishing at the time, even if explicable in retrospect, the temptation to suggest that they really could be coming this time can be hard to resist.

The other tendency is to look at the unlikely triumph of the Communist party and conclude that any dissent is not only doomed but futile. The party has spent years studying the demise of the Soviet Union to ensure that it does not suffer the same fate. It ruthlessly crushed the student-led protests of 1989, in which millions, not merely hundreds, took to the streets. It learned from that experience too, refining other means of repression. It is a sign of how limited the political space has become that these protests, attacking a policy attached to Xi Jinping by name, and in a few cases even calling for his departure, seem so utterly astonishing. Unlike in 1989, there are no signs of fissures at the top, domestic security spending dwarfs even China’s hefty military budget, and technological advances have made surveillance even more extensive.

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Officials slow to act on Covid contact-tracing warnings, leaked evidence says

Exclusive: Evidence to UK Covid inquiry describes missed chances to improve test-and-trace regime in early days of pandemic

Public health leaders were slow to act on repeated warnings over Christmas 2020 that contact tracing and isolation should be triggered immediately after a positive lateral flow test result, leaked evidence to the Covid inquiry shows.

A scathing “lessons learned” document written by Dr Achim Wolf, a senior test and trace official, and submitted to the inquiry, gives his account of a trail of missed opportunities to improve the NHS test-and-trace regime in the first winter and spring of the pandemic – before vaccines were available.

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The NHS test-and-trace failings that contributed to UK’s 2020 Covid Christmas

Gaps in contact-tracing and confused public health advice meant many infectious people not told to isolate

As Britain approached its first Christmas with Covid, Matt Hancock was typically tiggerish, even as a worrying new variant bubbled up in Kent.

“The finish line is in sight,” the health secretary told the nation from the Downing Street lectern on 10 December 2020. “And I know that, together, we can get there.”

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Former vaccines chief sounds warning about UK pandemic readiness

Kate Bingham raises concerns to committee of MPs as head of UKHSA suggests Covid could be on rise again

The UK is not in a significantly better place to deal with a new pandemic, the former vaccine taskforce chief has said, as a leading public health expert suggested Covid infections might be on the rise again.

Dame Kate Bingham, the managing partner at the life sciences venture capital firm SV Health Investors, headed the UK’s vaccine taskforce between May and December 2020.

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Payment sought for 929 NSW residents who agreed to work off now invalid Covid fines

Redfern Legal Centre calls for compensation after withdrawal of 33,000 pandemic-era fines

More than 900 people were placed on work orders for Covid fines now known to be entirely invalid, prompting calls for them to be compensated for their unpaid labour or training.

The New South Wales government on Tuesday said it would withdraw 33,000 fines for two specific Covid offences, after conceding that they were too vague and that the fines were improperly issued.

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From blank paper to alpacas: how protesters in China are voicing their anger – video

The largest protests in a generation erupted in cities across China over the weekend against the government’s zero-Covid policy. 

The most widely used symbol in the demonstrations has been a blank sheet of paper. It symbolises censorship, and may also, some Twitter users pointed out, be read as a reference to the deaths last week of 10 people in a building fire in Urumqi, Xinjiang, which was blamed on lockdown restrictions that protesters believe prevented the residents from escaping in time. In China, white is a colour used at funerals. But protesters have found other creative ways to express their anger, as Helen Sullivan explains

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Protesters clash with hazmat suit-clad riot police in Guangzhou, China – video

Protesters scuffled with police on Tuesday night, according to witnesses and footage. Video shared on social media shows security personnel in hazmat suits forming shoulder-to-shoulder ranks and taking cover under riot shields to make their way down a street in Haizhu district as protesters threw objects.

On Wednesday afternoon, authorities announced a lifting of Covid lockdowns in about half of the districts across the southern city of Guangzhou. The easing of restrictions, which came despite rising cases in the city, did not extend to all districts, including parts of Haizhu.

The city recorded almost 7,000 Covid cases on Tuesday. In Haizhu, there have been several protests and clashes with police over the past month, with the latest incident escalating dramatically on Friday

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Confusion over zero Covid caused unrest in China. Clarity is the way forward | Yu Jie

Unsure of how to loosen rules, local officials doubled down on the severe restrictions behind so much economic damage

When President Xi Jinping was seen unmasked at the G20 summit in Indonesia, he maintained a largely positive tone with President Joe Biden and other world leaders. This left an impression that China was on the verge of withdrawing its zero-Covid strategy.

A set of loosening policy measures introduced by Beijing seemed to further suggest that China was on track to reopen. As outlined in the 20th party congress, Xi wants to forge a pathway towards economic modernisation and this means building economic resilience and a further increase in household incomes.

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‘People want to live’: views from China on the Covid lockdown protests

Four people give their take on the protests against China’s zero-Covid policy

Protests against China’s zero-Covid policy have continued in cities including Shanghai, Beijing and Chengdu. The protests are a remarkable expression of defiance in a country where this type of public dissent is rare. They often feature people holding up blank sheets of paper, symbolising censorship.

Four people in various Chinese cities spoke to the Guardian on condition of anonymity to share their views on the protests.

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from Coronavirus | The Guardian
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