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Coronavirus

Coronavirus

Xi's Burden — Why China Is Sticking With Zero COVID

Too much has been put in to the state-sponsored truth that minimal spread of the virus is the at-all-cost objective. But if the Chinese economy continues to suffer, Xi Jinping may have no choice but to second guess himself.

The tragic bus accident in Guiyang last month — in which 27 people being sent to quarantine were killed — was one of the worst examples of collateral damage since the COVID-19 pandemic began in China nearly three years ago. While the crash can ultimately be traced back to bad government policy, the local authorities did not register it as a Zero COVID related casualty. It was, for them, a simple traffic accident.

The officials in the southern Chinese province of Guizhou, of course, had no alternative. Drawing a link between the deadly crash and the strict policy of Zero COVID, touted by President Xi Jinping, would have revealed the absurdity of the government's choices.

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The Guiyang Zero-COVID Bus Crash: A Chinese Tragedy In Three Acts

The city in southern China was put under harsh lockdown earlier this month after just a few positive COVID tests. Then a bus carrying quarantined residents crashed, killing 27. The senseless accident left residents more fearful and suspicious of each other than ever.

GUIYANG — Two weeks before the tragic Sep. 18 bus crash in this southern Chinese city, a local resident named Jin was anxiously driving out of her neighborhood. The police officers on duty were blocking the intersection and the area was closed off. Even though her employer had demanded she come to work, the local neighborhood committee had forbidden her from going out. That same evening one of Jin's colleague had been asked twice to get out of a taxi, and had to walk home.

The details of how China's latest lockdown disrupted Guiyang residents sound pointless after Sunday's crash of a bus transporting quarantined residents crashed, killing 27, and sparking a new round of outrage over the country's strict zero-COVID policy. And yet it is worth reviewing what had already happened to life in the city of 4.3 million after just a few cases of the virus were detected.

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So, Did Sweden's No-Lockdown COVID Strategy Pay Off?

During the pandemic, the world watched as Sweden carried out a unique approach to combat the COVID-19 virus, relying on social distancing instead of lockdowns. Although labeled a "disaster" at the time, the strategy worked well for all — except one key group.

As much of the world shut down early in the COVID pandemic, Sweden remained open. The country’s approach was controversial, with some calling it “the Swedish experiment”.

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Risks Of Reinfection And Long COVID: The Pandemic Is Not Over

Too many people no longer follow basic protocol: mask wearing, physical distancing and avoiding crowded events. The consequences are an increase in both daily case numbers and long COVID.

The latest Omicron variant BA.5 is fast becoming dominant worldwide, including in New Zealand and Australia. As it continues to surge, reinfection will become increasingly common and this in turn means more people will develop long COVID.

The two most concerning aspects of long COVID are its high prevalence (up to 30% of those infected) and a link between reinfection and a higher risk of harmful outcomes.

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Coronavirus
Dan Wu

China's "Two-Legged Sheep" And The Cost Of COVID Discrimination

As China holds firm in its zero-COVID approach, discrimination against those who have tested positive is rampant. Some even find themselves homeless and jobless. Now, the government is trying to tackle the stigma, but it won't be easy.

On July 9, the story of Afen, a young girl living in the restrooms of Shanghai Hongqiao train station, spread rapidly on Chinese social media. The girl was reported to be jobless and homeless because she had once contracted COVID. In post-lockdown Shanghai, many recruiters refused to give jobs to those who had been infected or who had worked in hospitals. Such demands in Shanghai’s labor market were not just seen in companies and firms but also in manual part-time jobs.

And even shelters might not host people who had tested positive for the virus. In Shanghai alone, thousands of workers like Afen were left with no choice but to live on the streets and struggle for their survival.

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Coronavirus
Khorloo Khukhnokhoi

Mongolian Herbal Medicine, A COVID Revival Takes Root

Traditional medicines, once banned, have regained favor. Government and health officials are endorsing them alongside COVID-19 vaccinations.

ERDENET, ORKHON PROVINCE, MONGOLIA — The water steams, then bubbles to a boil. Bayarjargal Togmid takes the pot off the stove and stirs in a bright yellow grass, known as manjingarav.

“This plant is excellent against coughing,” she says. “I drink it now and mix it with water so that my children often gargle their throats and mouths with it. It is far more effective than regular medicines.”

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Coronavirus
Liang Yue and Yuan Huiyan.

Hong Kong's Strict COVID Rules  Are Sparking An Exodus Of Foreigners

Enduring COVID restrictions are the final straw for many expats in Hong Kong. They're leaving by the thousands, threatening the city's reputation as a financial hub.

HONG KONG — “It's not the policy itself, but the lack of any rationale behind it that's made me choose to leave...” Steven (not his real name), an American senior executive of a strategic consulting firm who had been working in Hong Kong for seven years until April of this year.

More than two years on since the COVID-19 outbreak, the Hong Kong administration has been closely following mainland China's “Dynamic Clearing Policy”. The particularly strict social restrictions, vaccination policy and business operation limits, as well as the two to three weeks of quarantine imposed on arrival in the city, have pushed both local and international business circles to request the Hong Kong government to review the intangible and tangible economic costs behind the COVID-zero strategy.

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Coronavirus
Jessica Berthereau

The Main COVID Risk Now: Long COVID

Death rates are down, masks are off, but many who have been infected by COVID have still not recovered. Long COVID continues to be hard to diagnose and treatments are still in the developmental stage.

PARIS — The medical examination took longer than expected in the Parc de Castelnau-le-Lez clinic, near the southern French city of Montpellier. Jocelyne had come to see a specialist for long COVID-19, and exits the appointment slowly with help from her son. The meeting lasted more than an hour, twice as long as planned.

“I’m a fighter, you know, I’ve done a lot of things in my life, I’ve been around the world twice… I’m not saying this to brag, but to tell you my background," says the 40-year-old. "These days, I’m exhausted, I’m not hungry, I no longer drive, I can’t work anymore, I have restless legs syndrome.” She pauses before adding sadly: “I can’t read anymore either.”

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Coronavirus
Lili Bai

In Shanghai, A Brewing Expat Exodus As COVID Crackdown Shows "Real" China

Not only strict rules of freedom of movement as part of Zero-COVID policy but also an increase in censorship has raised many questions for the expat population in the megacity of 26 million that had long enjoyed a kind of special status in China as a place of freedom and openness. A recent survey of foreigners in the Chinese megacity found that 48% of respondents said they would leave Shanghai within the next year.

SHANGHAI — On the seventh day of the lockdown, Félix, a French expat who has worked in Shanghai for four years, texted his boss: I want to "run,' mais je sais pas quand (but I don’t know when). A minute later, he received a reply: moi aussi (me too).

Félix had recently learned the new Mandarin word 润 (run) from social network postings of his local friends. Because its pinyin “rùn” is the same as the English word “run,” Chinese youth had begun to use it to express their wish to escape reality, either to “be freed from mundane life”, or to “run toward your future.”

For foreigners like Félix, by associating the expression “run” with the feeling of the current lockdown in Shanghai, “everything makes sense.” Félix recalled how at the end of March, the government denied rumors of an impending lockdown: “My Chinese colleagues all said, Shanghai is China’s top city, there would be no lockdown no matter what.”

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Coronavirus
Ángel Mazariegos Rivas

Sin Of Disinformation, The Guatemalan Pastors Who Condemn COVID Vaccines

Vaccination rates in Guatemala are among the lowest in the Americas, and misinformation plays a key role. From their pulpits, some religious leaders spread messages against the use of masks and the efficacy of vaccines.

ESCUINTLA, GUATEMALA — One year since the vaccination campaign against COVID-19 began in Guatemala, only 45% of the population over 12 years old has been fully vaccinated and 15% have received a booster.

The figures are far from the projections the National Vaccination Plan presented in February 2021, with the aim to vaccinate the country's entire adult population within six months.

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Coronavirus
Dan Wu

Shanghai Stakes: Why COVID In China's "Bourgeois" Capital Is A High-Risk Affair

The port city is China's most international and cosmopolitan, which helps explain the ongoing culture clash between its residents and Chinese authorities aiming to enforce a strict Zero-Covid policy of restrictions on movement and freedom.

Shanghai, a metropolis of 25 million inhabitants with a rich and colorful history, stands apart in China.

The southern port boasts the most international and cosmopolitan population on mainland China, where commercial wealth and relative personal freedom meet. The natives of Shanghai are often chided by other Chinese as the nation's "bourgeois" class.

Through the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, which had first spread around the world from Wuhan — another Chinese mega-city some 500 miles to the west — Shanghai had largely been spared from its effects, with local administrations being praised for “precise epidemic prevention.”

All that has changed over the past month. Both its special status and previous success in keeping the virus at bay help explain the crisis engulfing the city over the past month. With the sudden spread of the Omicron variant, a strict lockdown has been in force since March 28. And locals are pushing the limits in what is, despite local attitudes, an authoritarian regime in China.

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Coronavirus
Lucila Pellettieri

It Takes Two To Tango, But One Pandemic Has Nearly Killed It

The pandemic has devastated Argentina’s tango culture — and the thousands of people who depend on it.

BUENOS AIRES — What María Campos missed most was the tango embrace. Two dancers, entwined like braided rope, whirling across a floor in wordless harmony. For tangueros, it’s as elemental as breathing. “Many older people in the tango milieu have died of sadness more than of COVID,” she says, “for not being able to dance.”

Tango was born in Argentina and is an international ambassador for the country of 45 million. Even so, the coronavirus has proved a formidable adversary. Tango thrives on intimacy, on commingled limbs and breath. So does the airborne virus. For 18 months, until September, the government barred tango events, or milongas, which shuttered tango venues, emptied dance studios and canceled competitions. Even now, dancing indoors requires proof of vaccination.

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