South China authorities apologize for COVID-19 burglaries

BEIJING (AP) — Authorities in southern China have apologized for breaking into the homes of people who were taken to a quarantine hotel in the latest example of tough virus prevention measures that sparked a rare public reaction.

State media said 84 homes in an apartment complex in Guangzhou city’s Liwan district were opened in a bid to find ‘close contacts’ hidden inside and disinfect the premises. .

The doors were then sealed and new locks installed, the Global Times newspaper reported.

The Liwan district government on Monday apologized for such “simplistic and violent” behavior, according to the newspaper. An investigation has been opened and the “persons concerned” will be severely punished, he said.

Chinese leaders have maintained their hard-line “zero-COVID” policy despite mounting economic costs and disruption to the lives of citizens, who continue to be subjected to routine testing and quarantines, even as the rest of the world has opened up to life with the disease.

Numerous cases of police and health workers breaking into homes in China in the name of anti-COVID-19 measures have been documented on social media. In some, doors have been kicked down and residents threatened with punishment, even when they tested negative for the virus. Authorities have required keys to lock residents of apartment buildings where cases have been detected, steel barriers erected to prevent them from leaving their compounds, and iron bars welded to the doors.

Chinese communist leaders exercise strict control over the government, the police and the levers of social control. Most citizens are used to the lack of privacy and the restrictions on freedom of expression and the right to assembly.

However, the strict anti-COVID-19 measures have tested this tolerance, especially in Shanghai, where an unforgiving and often chaotic lockdown has sparked online and in-person protests among those without access to food, healthcare and basic necessities.

Beijing authorities have taken a softer approach, keen to stir up unrest in the capital ahead of a key party congress later this year at which President and party leader Xi Jinping is set to receive a third five-year term in a context of radically slower economic growth and high rates. unemployment among university graduates and migrant workers. A requirement that only vaccinated people can enter public spaces was quickly reversed last week after townspeople denounced it as being announced without warning and unfair to those who did not have their shots.

“Zero-COVID” has been justified as necessary to avoid a wider epidemic among a population that has had relatively little exposure to the virus and less natural immunity. Although the vaccination rate in China hovers around 90%, it is considerably lower among the elderly, while questions have been raised about the effectiveness of vaccines produced in China..

Although China’s Fosun Pharma has reached an agreement to distribute, and eventually manufacture, the mRNA vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech, it has still not been cleared for use in mainland China, although it has been cleared for be used by separate authorities in Hong Kong and Macau.

Studies have consistently shown that inoculation with mRNA vaccines provides the best protection against hospitalization and death from COVID-19. Chinese vaccines made with older technology have been shown to be quite effective against the original strain of the virus, but much less so against newer variants.

Now health experts say the delay in approving mRNA vaccines – a consequence of putting politics and national pride above public health – could lead to preventable coronavirus deaths and casualties. deeper economics.

China’s national borders remain largely closed and although domestic tourism has resumed, travel across the country remains subject to an array of regulations, with ever-changing quarantine restrictions.

In a recent incident, some 2,000 visitors to the southern tourism hub of Beihai were forced to extend their stay after more than 500 cases were discovered and banned from leaving.

The local government was struggling to find hotel rooms for those who had already prepared to return home, while hotels and airlines were reimbursing those who had booked vacations in the city that had to be cancelled.

China regulates movement and access to public places through a health code app on citizens’ smartphones that must be updated with regular testing. The app tracks a person’s movements as a form of contact tracing, allowing for further imposition of public surveillance.

Measures remain in place despite relatively low infection rates. The National Health Commission announced on Tuesday only 699 new cases of domestic transmission detected in the past 24 hours, most of which were asymptomatic.

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