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Chinese New Year this year brings little cheer as Beijing continues to pursue zero-Covid policy

Uncertainty and anxiety rise among Chinese as Beijing continues to adhere to Zero Covid policy

At a time when more and more countries are announcing the lifting of Covid 19 restrictions, China’s approach of adhering to zero-tolerance has surprised a large section of its citizens, many of whom were gearing up for the Chinese New Year which starts on February 1. On January 23, the country reported less than 100 new cases though the figure was 140 in Hong Kong.Travel restrictions including mandatory quarantines are already in place in many cities though Beijing lifted a month-long lockdown in Xi’ian, home to 13 million people.

Typically spends expand significantly during this time of the year. Many are not able to visit their families for the celebrations which is denting consumption and overall sentiment.

Also read: China worried as Covid cases rise in Xian during holiday season

According to data collation portal Statista, revenue of retail sales in China during the Lunar New Year celebrations stood at 821 billion yuan which is about $160 million. Besides, in 2021, the tourism industry generated over 300 billion yuan during the Chinese New Year travel season in the country. Though the figures are lower than the pre-pandemic phase, “these were substantial,” said an analyst.

Naturally, this time, once again businesses, especially the smaller ones, are also feeling the heat. "It is obvious that with these restrictions and prevailing confusion, people will spend less this year," the analyst said. 

“In line with China’s zero-tolerance policy towards Covid-19, local governments have doubled down on travel restrictions, fearing that the annual holiday mass migration might contribute to the coronavirus’ spread,” South China Morning Post in a report said. The frequent changes in travel rules and different cities having their own Covid norms have left citizens confused.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned that the stringent restrictions at this stage could be damaging for China.

Also read: Video: China forcing people to stay in crammed metal boxes to contain spread of COVID-19

“China is still using a zero-Covid policy. But what Covid is teaching all of us is that a highly transmissible variant may be much more difficult to contain without a dramatic impact on the economy,” IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva said at the World Economic Forum. She added that Beijing should reassess its policy especially since the Omicron variant is less severe than the previous ones.

Besides, the Covid 19 related restrictions and lockdowns in several parts of China have also given rise to fear of disruption in the global supply chain network.

Many economists and policymakers have predicted that the Chinese economy could take longer to recover with these restrictions. As China gradually resets its economic policies and focuses more on boosting domestic consumption, the zero Covid approach is turning out to be a big handicap.