China’s official media said the country should experience “normalcy” within months if the government backs away from its zero-Covid policy.
Chinese authorities this month cut testing requirements, allowed Covid patients to quarantine at home and lifted lockdowns in a stunning firework of regulations as evidence mounts of a nationwide outbreak.
“Virus experts expect normality by spring,” reads a headline on the Covid-specific landing page of China Daily, the country’s leading English-language newspaper, including “Experts: Omicron has reduced risk of causing serious illnesses.”
Beijing’s public health about-face has prompted a marked reversal in official rhetoric on the virus compared to a few weeks ago, when party and government media claimed that zero-Covid was the only viable approach.
Propaganda outlets have hailed Beijing’s tough crackdown as evidence of its concern for its people, openly contrasting relaxed restrictions in Western countries.
An elderly woman receives a Covid vaccination in Shanghai last week © AFP/Getty Images
But outlets have also had to grapple with the sharp turn in rhetoric, painting a picture of China’s reversal as planned, economically beneficial and timed to avoid excess deaths.
Several models, including one funded in part by China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, have predicted up to 1 million deaths from Covid in the coming months as the country eases its controls.
But while Chinese media a few weeks ago predicted similarly disastrous consequences of moving from zero-Covid, in recent days they have underscored how nearly three years of tight restrictions have bought the country time to vaccinate its population and improve medical infrastructure.
“The postponement . . . does not contradict the harsh truth that China is one of the world’s most successful people when it comes to living ahead of the . . . pandemic,” read an editorial Monday in Xinhua, the official Government news agency: “China has respected what it has always said – to put people and their lives first.”