Beijing Daily, the Communist Party’s official newspaper in the Chinese capital, reported earlier that the city’s party leader, Cai Qi, said on Monday that “for the next five years, Beijing will resolutely implement the control measures of the Covid-19 pandemic and will maintain the “zero-Covid policy to prevent imported cases from entering and domestic cases from rebounding.”
The reference reported by Cai, who is a close ally of Chinese President Xi Jinping, to the “next five years” sparked a huge backlash on Chinese social media. In response, the Beijing Daily deleted the line, describing it as an “editing error” while leaving its other remarks on pandemic controls intact.
CNN reviewed the entire speech and although the published quote from the Beijing Daily was misleading, Cai discussed at length the possibility of keeping zero-Covid policies in place in the capital for the next five years.
Pandemic controls that would remain in place include routine PCR testing, strict entry rules, regular health checks in residential neighborhoods and public places, and rigorous monitoring and testing for people entering and leaving. from Beijing, Cai told state media.
“I have to rethink if I should continue to stay in Beijing for the long term,” wrote one user on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform.
“For the next five years…what’s the point of being alive,” another user said.
Weibo has since banned the hashtag “for the next five years” from its platform.
In early May, Xi doubled down on the zero-Covid policy at a meeting of the Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee, the country’s highest decision-making body, ordering officials and all sectors of society to adhere to ” leadership decisions and plans.
US Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns said at a Brookings Institution online event on June 16 that he expected China to maintain its zero-Covid policy until “ first months of 2023,” based on signals from the Chinese government.
For months, cities across China – including Beijing and Shanghai – have been placed on full or partial lockdown due to the strict zero-Covid policy, wreaking havoc on economic activity and hurting the job market. . In May, the unemployment rate for 16-24 year olds reached a record 18.4%.
China continues to shut down entire communities and towns for a handful of Covid cases. All positive cases and close contacts are sent to government quarantine.
China reported 23 locally transmitted Covid-19 cases nationwide on Sunday, with Beijing and Shanghai each recording four cases, according to the country’s National Health Commission.