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Coronavirus in china and hong kong, covid cases current situation late 2022

As Covid spreads across China, the media say that things will be back to normal by spring.

The official media are trying to make the "exit wave" of cases look like they were part of a plan.

China's state media have said that things will get back to normal in a few months and have rejected criticism from the West. This comes as the country's censors try to show that the "exit wave" of coronavirus cases that is sweeping the country is all part of a plan.

"Virus experts expect things to get back to normal by spring," said a headline in the China Daily, the country's most important English-language newspaper. Other articles had titles like "Experts: Omicron is less likely to cause severe illness."

After years of warning about the dangers of Covid, Chinese officials this month lowered the number of tests that had to be done, let most Covid patients quarantine at home, and stopped locking people up.

People eat at a food court in the Hong Kong neighborhood of Causeway Bay.
People eat at a food court in the Hong Kong neighborhood of Causeway Bay.

The U-turn happened because of a slowing economy and growing opposition to the policies. The official language about the virus has also changed. Just a few weeks ago, state media said that containing it was the only way to deal with it.

Propaganda organs had praised Beijing's "zero-Covid" policy as proof that the government cared about its people. This was in contrast to the looser restrictions in the West, which were seen as morally corrupt and economically weak because of the spread of the virus.

"At the central level, the U-turn was very clear," said Ryan Manuel, managing director of Bilby, a company that analyzes Chinese government documents. He also said that local authorities had been sending "mixed signals" about zero-Covid for several months.

After the central government eased zero-Covid this month, official media showed that the change was planned, good for the economy, and timed so that there wouldn't be too many deaths.

On December 19, a man buys antigen test kits at a pharmacy in Hangzhou, which is in the eastern province of Zhejiang in China.
On December 19, a man buys antigen test kits at a pharmacy in Hangzhou, which is in the eastern province of Zhejiang in China.

Another article in China Daily was called "Where China Stands in Covid Deaths Around the World." It quoted respiratory disease expert Zhong Nanshan as saying that the official national death toll was the lowest of any "major" country and 1/232 of the global average.

The report comes with a graph that shows the total number of deaths in China, the US, and the whole world. The line for China stays flat throughout the graph.

Experts don't agree with how China counts deaths. Since early December, when zero-Covid was eased, only seven people have died on the mainland, for example. This is different from Hong Kong, which has more than 7 million people and had 39 deaths in the two weeks before Monday.

Several models, including one that was partly paid for by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, have predicted that China could have up to 1 million Covid deaths in the reopening phase as the country loosens its strict controls.

But Chinese media, which just a few weeks ago said that moving away from zero-Covid would have similarly terrible effects, are now emphasizing how nearly three years of strict rules gave the country time to vaccinate its people and improve its medical infrastructure.

Beijing's top public figures have also defended the government's messy reopening to people who are upset about empty pharmacy shelves and a lack of medical supplies.

Hu Xijin, who used to be the chief editor of the populist newspaper Global Times, told his 25 million followers on the Weibo app that Beijing was "facing a battle that has never been seen before" and that it was "too idealistic" to think that the city was ready.

"Is it a lack of planning? One netizen replied, "It's a total lack of preparation; making some fever medicines two weeks ago would have been enough."

Even though China's "zero-Covid" policy worked well early on in the pandemic, when millions of people died in other countries, analysts said the country did not use the time to fully vaccinate its elderly or prepare its healthcare system as well as it could have.

The head of Eurasia Group, Ian Bremmer, said in a note that the best way to fight Covid in 2020 became the worst way in 2022. He said that China's decision to leave Covid was "a sudden, shocking turn around with no plan or preparation."

But commentators for China Daily and CGTN, the English-language arm of state broadcaster CCTV, said that criticizing China's approach was "western media bias."

The official government news agency, Xinhua, said in an editorial on Monday that the zero-Covid policy was changed because the virus was less dangerous.

It also said, "It doesn't go against the hard truth that China is one of the world's best at saving lives from the pandemic." China has done what it said it would do from the beginning: put the people and their lives above everything else.

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