BEIJING — China’s ruling party on Tuesday called for strict adherence to the sweeping “zero-COVID” policy in an apparent attempt to guide public perceptions after regulations were eased slightly in places.
The People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s flagship newspaper, said in an op-ed that China must “relentlessly enforce” the policy that demands mass mandatory testing and places millions of people under lockdown in an attempt to stamp out the coronavirus. of the nation of 1.4 billion people and the second largest in the world. -the greatest economy.
It comes as China reported 17,772 new cases in the past 24 hours and follows slight changes to quarantine and other virus restrictions announced last week to reduce costs and disruption.
The main provincial capital of Shijiazhuang, just outside Beijing, also reopened free testing centers after a single day of closure. The move to require residents to pay for the tests underscored the growing economic cost the policy is inflicting on local governments.
Beijing has also closed some testing sites in recent days, but was reopening many on Tuesday. While the number of cases remains relatively low in the city of more than 21 million people, a recent rise has led to some restaurants and other businesses closing and villages that are largely home to blue-collar workers have been placed on lockdown.
Some lockdowns on residential compounds and entire city districts remain in place around China, including parts of the crucial southern financial manufacturing hub of Guangzhou and other cities whose industrial bases are closely tied to the chains. global supplies.
Local party officials are under immense pressure to curb new outbreaks, but central government guidelines have recently become harder to gauge. China appears to be cautiously trying to join the rest of the world while refusing to abandon policies in which the party and leader Xi Jinping have deeply invested their authority and reputation.
Xi himself is in Indonesia for the G20 summit this week after being absent from most global gatherings throughout the pandemic.
Xi met with U.S. President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the G-20 meeting on Monday and is expected to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit later in Bangkok.