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The pandemic

Living in Covid-free China

Chinese police guarding the Forbidden City in Beijing. Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Having not left China for two years, I effectively live in a “zero-Covid world”, says David Rennie in The Economist. Throughout the pandemic the country has all but sealed its borders and brought in extreme policies to prevent outbreaks. Residents in Beijing undergo several temperature checks a day, and must log in with a smartphone every time they enter a public building. Getting infected comes with severe social stigma – one positive test can result in entire housing compounds being locked down for 14 days. Officials in some provincial cities have even killed the pet cats and dogs of those with the virus.

The West may criticise these draconian ways, but they work. In Beijing, a city of 22 million people, there have been just 13 cases in the past month. The Chinese, for their part, think westerners have a slapdash approach to virus control – people sometimes won’t sit next to me on domestic flights. Yet the Chinese Communist Party has refused to approve foreign vaccines, even though they are more effective than local ones, because that would involve a “political loss of face”. This means the country will “stay closed for a long time”. Looks like I won’t be leaving my “China-sized bubble” any time soon.

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