China tells officials to ‘resolutely maintain’ zero-Covid-19 policy

Health workers and staff wear protective suits inside a locked residential compound in Beijing on Oct 20, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING - China’s zero-tolerance approach remains the overall strategy to fighting Covid-19, health officials have stressed, after unverified social media posts buoyed hopes the policy would be eased.

The National Health Commission (NHC) convened a meeting on Wednesday hosted by its head, Dr Ma Xiaowei, to study the messages delivered during the Communist Party congress held in October.

Dr Ma said officials must be committed to zero-Covid-19 and the work of controlling the coronavirus, according to a statement from the commission.

“We must resolutely maintain the general approach of ‘preventing imported cases and domestic resurgence’ and the overall strategy of ‘dynamic Covid-zero’,” he said in the meeting.

He also said outbreaks need to be controlled in the shortest amount of time, at the lowest cost, repeating a slogan popularised by President Xi Jinping.

Mr Xi secured a third term in power at the party congress, during which he defended zero-Covid-19 as a strategy that has saved lives.

The NHC meeting came after posts that circulated on Chinese social media on Tuesday and Wednesday – claiming that China was studying ways to exit zero-Covid-19 – sparked a US$450 billion (S$639 billion) rally in the MSCI China Index.

United States-listed China stocks continued to climb even after the commission’s statement, with the Nasdaq Golden Dragon China Index rising as much as 4.5 per cent in trading on Wednesday, before paring gains to close 0.9 per cent higher.

While investors and the public are hoping for a shift from zero-Covid-19, lockdowns, mass testing and centralised quarantine in China show no sign of slowing.

Zhengzhou’s Airport Economy Zone, the district where the world’s largest iPhone factory is located, was shut down on Wednesday for seven days. The move could complicate recruitment and shipments in and out of the Foxconn plant, adding a blow to Apple during the peak holiday shopping season. BLOOMBERG

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