Clashes in Shanghai as Protests Over Zero-Covid Policy Grip China, US Vax Fatigue, World Covid Stats

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Beijing, Chengdu and Wuhan see demonstrations as anger over Xi Jinping’s strict Covid policies builds, in a test for the Communist part

SUMMARY

  • Protests against strict Covid measures in China have spread to the biggest cities with protests late into Sunday evening
  • Apart from Shanghai and Beijing, demonstrations have also been seen – including at universities – in Nanjing, Chengdu, Wuhan and other places
  • People have been criticising not only Covid restrictions but also President Xi Jinping. Police in Shanghai made a number of arrests
  • On Monday there was a large police presence at the main Shanghai protest site – Wulumuqi Middle Road, where barriers have also been erected
  • The Chinese government has not acknowledged the protests or responded in any formal way
  • However news of the protests is spreading through Chinese social media despite heavy censorship
  • On Monday China recorded 40,052 new Covid cases – a fifth straight daily record – up from 39,506 a day earlier

GUARDIAN, BBC, REUTERS

 

Hundreds of demonstrators and police have clashed in Shanghai as protests over China’s stringent Covid restrictions flared for a third day and spread to several cities, in the biggest test for president Xi Jinping since he secured a historic third term in power.

The wave of civil disobedience is unprecedented in mainland China in the past decade, as frustration mounts over Xi’s signature zero-Covid policy nearly three years into the pandemic.

Protests triggered by a deadly apartment fire in the far west of the country last week took place on Sunday in cities including Shanghai, Beijing, Chengdu, Wuhan and Guangzhou.

On Monday China reported a new daily record of new Covid-19 infections, with 40,347 cases. The cities of Guangzhou and Chongqing, with thousands of cases, are struggling to contain outbreaks. Hundreds of infections were also recorded in several other cities across the country.

Chinese stocks fell sharply as investors raised concerns over the impact of the protests on the world’s second-largest economy.

In the early hours of Monday in Beijing, two groups of protesters totalling at least 1,000 people were gathered along the Chinese capital’s 3rd Ring Road near the Liangma River, refusing to disperse.

On Sunday in Shanghai, police kept a heavy presence on Wulumuqi Road, which is named after Urumqi, and where a candlelight vigil the day before turned into protests.

“We just want our basic human rights. We can’t leave our homes without getting a test. It was the accident in Xinjiang that pushed people too far,” said a 26-year-old protester in Shanghai who declined to be identified.

“The people here aren’t violent, but the police are arresting them for no reason. They tried to grab me but the people all around me grabbed my arms so hard and pulled me back so I could escape.”

By Sunday evening, hundreds of people gathered in the area. Some jostled with police trying to disperse them. People held up blank sheets of paper as an expression of protest.

On Saturday, people in Shanghai had chanted “No PCR tests, we want freedom!” followed by rounds of repeated calls for “Freedom! Freedom!”

The protests erupted on Friday in Urumqi, the regional capital of the far west Xinjiang region, after footage of a fire in a residential building that killed at least 10 people the day before led to accusations that a Covid lockdown was a factor in the death toll.

Urumqi officials abruptly held a news conference in the early hours of Saturday to deny Covid measures had hampered escape and rescue. Many of Urumqi’s 4 million residents have been under some of the country’s longest lockdowns, barred from leaving their homes for as long as 100 days.

Late on Sunday, a BBC journalist was seen on camera being “beaten and kicked by police” before being arrested in the city. Footage on social media showed Edward Lawrence being dragged to the ground in handcuffs, while he was seen saying in another video: “Call the consulate now”.

A BBC spokesperson said: “The BBC is extremely concerned about the treatment of our journalist Ed Lawrence, who was arrested and handcuffed while covering the protests in Shanghai.

“He was held for several hours before being released,” the spokesperson said, adding that he had been covering the protests as an accredited journalist.

Lawrence, a senior journalist and camera operator for the BBC’s China bureau, was tweeting from the scene of the protest in Shanghai on Sunday morning UK time.

He wrote: “I’m at the scene of last night’s extraordinary anti Covid-zero protest in Shanghai. Many people are gathered here quietly watching. Lots of cops.”

In the central city of Wuhan, where the pandemic began three years ago, videos on social media showed hundreds of residents take to the streets, smashing through metal barricades, overturning Covid testing tents and demanding an end to lockdowns.

Other cities that have seen public dissent include Lanzhou in the north-west, where residents on Saturday overturned Covid staff tents and smashed testing booths, posts on social media appear to show.

Widespread public protest is rare in China, where room for dissent has been all but eliminated under Xi, forcing citizens mostly to vent their frustration on social media, where they play cat-and-mouse with censors.

people hold white sheets of paper at a demonstration against Covid restrictions
In Beijing, people hold white sheets of paper – a symbolic protest against censorship – at a demonstration against Covid restrictions. Photograph: Thomas Peter/Reuters

China has stuck with Xi’s zero-Covid policy even as much of the world has lifted most restrictions. While low by global standards, China’s case numbers have hit record highs for days, with nearly 40,000 new infections on Saturday, prompting yet more lockdowns in cities across the country. Beijing has defended the policy as life-saving and necessary to prevent overwhelming the healthcare system.

Frustration is boiling just over a month after Xi secured a third term at the helm of China’s Communist party, and much of the anger is being directed at China’s leader.

In a video on social media, a protestor accused Xi of locking people up and confining them to their homes.

“Xi Jinping step down, Communist Party step down”, he says in the post that has been widely shared.

“This will put serious pressure on the party to respond. There is a good chance that one response will be repression, and they will arrest and prosecute some protesters,” said Dan Mattingly, assistant professor of political science at Yale University.

Still, he said, the unrest is far from that seen in 1989, when protests culminated in the bloody crackdown in Tiananmen Square.

He added that as long as Xi had China’s elite and the military on his side, he would not face any meaningful risk to his grip on power.

Reuters contributed to this report

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White House battles pandemic fatigue in vaccine push

The Hill
Tameiki Lee, a Jackson-Hinds Comprehensive Health Center nurse, holds a vial of the Pfizer COVID-19 booster vaccine at an inoculation station next to Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss., Friday, Nov. 18, 2022. Pfizer said that its updated COVID-19 booster may offer some protection against newly emerging omicron mutants even though it’s not an exact match. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)]

Public health officials have repeatedly warned that the U.S. will likely face another wave of COVID-19 infections as the weather gets colder and people travel and gather for the holidays.

But it doesn’t seem to be convincing a checked-out public to get vaccinated.

New COVID-19 booster shot uptake remained low heading into the Thanksgiving holiday, frustrating Biden administration officials who previously called for the public to get booster shots in time for Halloween.

White House COVID-19 response coordinator Ashish Jha last month said that everyone 50 and older should get the booster because “it is a difference between life and death.”

The government has purchased 171 million doses of the updated vaccine. But well into November, federal data shows that just 11 percent of the population older than age 5 has received a dose, including just under 30 percent of people 65 and older.

“The boosters have had dismal uptake from the beginning,” said Rupali Limaye, an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who studies vaccine demand. “I think that at this point, there is so much fatigue.”

Anthony Fauci, in likely his final White House briefing on Tuesday before he leaves government, implored people to get vaccinated and not get complacent about COVID-19.

“My message, and maybe the final message I give you, please, for your own safety, for that of your family, get your updated COVID-19 shot as soon as you’re eligible to protect yourself, your family and your community,” Fauci said.

“The real danger is in the people who have not been vaccinated. So that’s where we expect, if we’re going to see a problem this winter, it’s going to be among those people,” Fauci said.

Despite the availability of vaccines and treatments, hundreds of people are still dying of COVID-19 every day, and administration officials lamented the misinformation that’s led to skepticism about the effectiveness of the vaccines.

“Here’s what we know: If folks get their updated vaccines, and they get treated, if they have a breakthrough infection, we can prevent essentially every COVID death in America,” Jha said Tuesday.

Public health experts acknowledged the current pace of vaccinations leaves too many people vulnerable to severe disease. They said the administration could be doing more outreach and messaging with a greater sense of urgency.

Jen Kates, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said even if the administration had all the resources officials say are needed for an effective outreach campaign, reaching people would still be a struggle.

“I think it still is a little bit of an uphill battle because so many Americans are weary of COVID and sort of have tried to move beyond, unfortunately. Fighting that is a much longer-term challenge,” Kates said.

New COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are down from the most recent summer surge, even as the virus continues to circulate and deaths have plateaued at about 2,200 people every week.

The White House on Tuesday launched a six-week sprint aimed at convincing Americans to get their updated COVID-19 vaccine before the end of the year.

The administration said the campaign will focus on seniors and vulnerable communities hardest hit by the virus.

“The bottom line is we need more Americans vaccinated,” Jha said. “Each of the last two years, we’ve seen substantial increases late December into January, and so going out and getting vaccinated right now is a great way to protect yourself if that pattern holds.”

Public health experts have been calling for a targeted vaccination campaign for months, and Kates said she hoped the new focus would help nudge lagging vaccination rates.

“The urgency to get particularly vulnerable people boosted is there, it hasn’t gone away, and really focusing on those who are most vulnerable is probably the most important thing right now,” Kates said.

The administration said it will direct its limited remaining resources into a $475 million campaign for community health centers and community-based organizations to increase the pace of vaccinations.

More than 70,000 locations are offering the updated COVID-19 vaccines, and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is aiming to expand to even more locations.

HHS said it will invest $350 million into community health centers, which they can use for “mobile, drive-up, walk-up, or community-based vaccination events, partnerships with community and faith-based organizations for vaccination activities, raising awareness of the updated shot, and more.”

The administration will also invest $125 million for efforts to get more older Americans and people with disabilities vaccinated, including through accessible vaccination clinics, in-home vaccinations, transportation, outreach and education.

The funding for the new push comes as the White House is calling on Congress to include about $10 billion in supplemental funding for COVID-19 response as part of the must-pass government funding bill.

In his White House appearance, Fauci emphasized the need for people to get the updated shot, even if they’ve previously been vaccinated. The country can get to a point where there’s a minimal background level of infections and very few deaths, he said, but only if people protect themselves.

“We’re gonna get there. We can get there with less suffering if we use the interventions that we have,” Fauci said. “If you want to let nature take its course, we’re ultimately going to get there, but we’re going to lose a lot more people than we need to.”

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WORLD  COVID STATS

Coronavirus Cases:

646,262,639

Deaths:

6,636,577

Recovered:

624,826,934
Highlighted in green
= all cases have recovered from the infection
Highlighted in grey
= all cases have had an outcome (there are no active cases)

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Latest News

November 28 (GMT)

Updates

  • 49,117 new cases and 103 new deaths in Japan [source]
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