Chinese people fight to muster the courage to negotiate with COVID-19.
A COVID-19 sufferer resides in her building, but the two-week lockdown that was put in place to stop the virus’ transmission is about to be removed, according to the 43-year-old resident of Hunan, a province in central China.
Hu stated in her family’s WeChat group conversation, “Wear your mask and don’t go to busy areas – we just have ourselves to rely on now. China has abruptly started to loosen some of its most stringent restrictions after nearly three years of a zero-COVID strategy that tried to eradicate the virus everywhere it had arisen through lockdowns, mass testing, and centralised quarantine.
The change in a policy that has slowed down the expansion of the second-largest economy in the world and affected the lives of millions of people happened soon after a wave of anti-lockdown protests swept the country.
The policy’s relaxation has entertained many people, especially those whose livelihoods have been adversely affected, but many people are concerned about what power comes next. Health experts expect an increase in coronavirus cases in a country where the vast preponderance of people have not been exposed to the virus and many elderly people have not received the full course of the vaccine.
The zero-COVID plan means that, since 2020, China has been promoting a story about a virus that is undoubtedly deadly and portraying the rest of the world’s decision to live with it as a risky course of action.
However, it only took the government a few nights to start to tear down the anti-pandemic system it had so diligently established. The national COVID-19 tracking app, which worked as a defining symbol of China’s anti-pandemic tactics, was disassembled by the government in a week, and other restrictions that had hardly slowed everyone’s daily life were widely relaxed.
Leavened “out in the open”. Many others have been left confused and even scared, like Hu, by the abrupt change. Hu has undergone ovarian cancer treatment; people with underlying illnesses or those whose immune systems have been compromised are known to be more susceptible to COVID-19.
She recently reached the five-year mark since the last cancerous cells were found in her body, a clinical manifestation that the disease has probably been suppressed. Despite this, she claims to be “extremely nervous” about the abrupt change in COVID-19 policies and is cancelling all of her non-essential trips outside of the house so she “runs any risk of infection.”
However, without vaccines and form security, we are suddenly left in the open. The doctors claim they are afraid of the potential negative effects the immunizations have on me.
Five immunocompromised people who are not immunised. They all related tales of how the government had been reluctant to immunise them due to concerns about the potential negative effects and had been slow to do so.
Patients who already have underlying illnesses are now worried that they won’t have time to get immunised before the virus infects their city or building.
Ding Siyang, a dialysis patient in Kunming, a city in southwest China, stated that “no one was rushed to receive the vaccine before, but now even though we want to get the vaccine, doctors are cautious since there is no supervision from the top.” We are all a little scared.
The sizable senior population of the country is likewise anxious. Even though the government rushed to immunise the older population once the regulation was relaxed, the National Health Commission reports that just 60% of those over 80 have received a growth.
According to a Hong Kong study, the COVID-19 vaccination given to older patients only delivers acceptable protection against serious illness following the booster shot. Experts have projected that a sudden spike in cases in the middle of winter in China could overwhelm the country’s scarce medical facilities due to the comparatively low vaccination rate among sensitive people.
Not only vulnerable people, but everyone is afraid of the imminent COVID-19 tsunami. The young and healthy, who according to conventional knowledge should be better able to cope with the sickness, are anxious following the relentless message of the previous three years.
Since the 8.5 million-person city of Wuhan was isolated three years ago when COVID-19 first surfaced, experts have been researching the impact of protracted lockdowns on people’s mental health.
One of the top medical magazines in the world, The Lancet, reported that 35% of respondents mourned discomfort, including anxiety and depression, in the first national survey on psychological torment during the COVID-19 pandemic in China starting in 2020.
It went on to say that the relief felt when Wuhan’s lockdown was eventually raised was “widespread anxiety over changing to routine life and concern that transmission of the virus would return” were offset by “widespread anxiety over adapting to everyday life and fear that the virus will rebound.”
Since then, China has experienced sporadic but protracted lockdowns that have left many people feeling “weary and unhappy,” according to Xiao Lu, a psychotherapist in Shanghai.
“A huge motivation for a lot of people is being isolated from friends and family for dread of this disease that many were fearing,” she said.
Lu Xueqin, a 35-year-old Changsha resident who has received vaccinations and boosters made in China, recalls the early stages of the epidemic when medical resources were stretched to the breaking point.
I plainly don’t want us to return to those times, Lu said in response. Vaccines have been created since Wuhan in early 2020, and the virus has changed since then. The difference between then and now is clear: the wave of Omicron variations has been more widespread but less severe thanks to the improved therapies and extra protection offered by a wide variety of vaccines.
However, Beijing’s provocative portrayal of the virus since Wuhan has made it more difficult for people to prepare for a life with COVID-19. Xiao Lu asserts that “for many people who had previously thought receiving the coronavirus was nearly like a death sentence,” anxiety will almost be increased.
The dread is widespread even though recognised specialists have appeared on national television to reassure the public that the new strain is less deadly than the one that devastated Wuhan in the early stages of the pandemic.
Lu is concerned that many more people may experience worry and possibly despair unless the government actively informs the public about the evolving nature of the sickness.
Uncertainty, according to scientific research, “further fuels worry among individuals who are prone to [anxiety], and a change in policy without effective public communication will make problems worse,” she continued.
As cases increase under laxer restrictions, such uncertainty and worry may have long-lasting effects. According to Zhong Nanshan, a top government health consultant, “the epidemic is currently expanding rapidly in China, and under such circumstances, no matter how powerful the prevention and control is, it will be difficult to entirely cut off the transmission chain.”
In a study, earlier this month by consultancy Oliver Wyman, among the 4,000 consumers questioned, those who stated they would not be travelling cited fear of infection with COVID-19 as their main worry.
When asked if she intended to travel from her home in Changsha as the constraints relaxed, Lu responded, “You must be kidding. I’m barely able to muster the confidence to leave my house right now.