China censors COVID-related content online as New Year’s Eve prompts reflection by some

New Year’s Eve in China prompted an outpouring of reflection online, some of it critical, about the strict zero-COVID policy the country adhered to for almost three years.


China this month scrapped repeated mass testing, centralised quarantine for infected people, and lockdowns, the hallmarks of a policy aimed at eradicating all outbreaks of COVID-19.


The sudden change to live with the virus has prompted a wave of infections across the country, a drop in economic activity and international concern, with Britain and France the latest countries to impose curbs on travellers from China.


On Saturday, thousands of users on China’s Twitter-like Weibo criticised the removal of a viral video made by local outlet Netease News that collated real-life stories from 2022 that had captivated the Chinese public.


Many of the stories included in the video, which by Saturday could not be seen or shared on domestic social media platforms, highlighted the difficulties ordinary Chinese faced as a result of the strict zero-COVID policy.


Weibo and Netease did not immediately reply to a request for comment.


China has massively reduced its reporting of nationwide figures on COVID-19 infections.


Cumulative infections in China likely reached 18.6 million in December, UK-based health data firm Airfinity estimated on Thursday.


But some estimates from state media suggest the number of infections is much higher. The infection rate in Sichuan province, which has a population of more than 84 million, is more than 64%, according to the state-run Health Times.


The infections have prompted international concern, particularly regarding the possibility of a new, stronger variant emerging out of China.


Britain and France became the latest countries to require travellers from China to provide negative COVID-19 tests. The United States, South Korea, India, Italy, Japan and Taiwan have all imposed similar measures.


The World Health Organistion said on Friday it had repeated a request to China’s health officials to regularly share specific and real-time information on COVID-19 in the country, including more genetic sequencing data and figures on hospitalisations and deaths.


China’s narrow criteria for identifying deaths caused by COVID-19 will underestimate the true toll of the pandemic and could make it harder to communicate the best ways for people to protect themselves, health experts have warned.


Only deaths caused by pneumonia and respiratory failure after contracting COVID will be classified as having been caused by the coronavirus, a leading Chinese medical expert said last week.


Source: Tap News Agency