In China, infected people who have only mild or no COVID-19 symptoms are now allowed to return to work in many places. The party-affiliated newspaper “Global Times” names, among other things, metropolises of Chongqing and Guiyang in the southwest or Wuhu in the province of Anhui and the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang, which has 57 million inhabitants. The paper cryptically justifies the government’s decision with a “better balance between epidemic prevention and social and economic development”.

In the 4.5 million metropolis of Guiyang, workers in supermarkets, delivery services, government agencies, medical facilities and other institutions have been instructed to go to work with appropriate protection if they show no or only slight symptoms of illness and their state of health allows it, like the Global Times continues to write.

In the middle of a new massive corona outbreak, the most populous country in the world suddenly lifted its tough zero-tolerance policy on December 7 after almost three years of lockdowns, weeks of sealing off entire cities, forced quarantines, mass tests and contact tracing.

The reason for the turnaround was that the infections with the new omicron variants were no longer as severe. However, the measures taken up to that point also proved to be less and less effective. In addition, during protests against the government’s corona policy, the overthrow of President Xi Jinping was called for for the first time – a process previously unheard of in China.

Internationally, however, there is now growing concern about a gigantic corona wave with countless infected and dead people in the People’s Republic with its 1.4 billion people – not least because of the possible effects on the economy and trade. Because the government’s easing measures caught the health system completely unprepared. No stocks of medicines had been built up. Fever and cold medicine or rapid corona tests were sold out immediately after the easing.

Cities across the country are working flat out to create additional hospital beds and treatment capacity. In Beijing, the crematoria can no longer keep up with the cremation of the dead. There are no longer any official figures on the infection situation, but according to rough estimates, more than half of the 21 million Beijingers alone are ill.

Experts point out that a large-scale spread of COVID-19 in China could lead to further, dangerous mutations of the virus. The hospitals are currently taking in many newly infected people who are not vaccinated. Many of the 260 million elderly people over the age of 60 are inadequately protected: only 70 percent of those over 60 and 40 percent of those over 80 years of age have received a booster injection in China. Modern foreign vaccines are not approved for political reasons.

“Every new epidemic wave in another country carries the risk of new variants, and this risk is all the higher, the larger the outbreak is,” says Alex Cook, public health expert at the National University of Singapore, describing the dangers of the opening also for the world community. “And the current wave in China has what it takes to be big.” However, China must inevitably endure a major corona wave if it is to achieve an endemic state of its population and a future without lockdowns for corona outbreaks, Cook said .

se/kle (dpa, rtr, afp)

The original of this article “China: Corona infected people are even allowed to work” comes from Deutsche Welle.