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Confusion, fear cloud China's path out of zero-Covid

This file photo taken on Nov 20, 2022 shows people queueing to test for the Covid-19 coronavirus at a swab collection station in Beijing.

This file photo taken on Nov 20, 2022 shows people queueing to test for the Covid-19 coronavirus at a swab collection station in Beijing.

With megacities under lockdown, infection numbers climbing and sporadic protests, China's Covid-19 policy has reached a stalemate as authorities persist with seeking to contain the virus while trying to keep the economy alive

China is the only major economy still attempting to stamp out the domestic spread of the virus, shutting down entire cities and placing contacts of infected patients into strict quarantine

A series of new rules announced by Beijing earlier this month appeared to signal a shift away from the strategy, easing quarantine requirements for entering the country and simplifying a system for designating high-risk areas

Yet daily cases driven by the evasive Omicron variant have neared 30,000 — low compared to most other large countries but reaching peaks unseen since the chaotic days of Shanghai's harsh lockdown in the spring

That has caused whiplash among China's urban residents, as officials first eased restrictions before reimposing curbs, all the while claiming to be finetuning the zero-Covid strategy personally championed by President Xi Jinping

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