China keeps virus at bay at high cost ahead of Olympics

www.thehindubusinessline.com
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China's zero-tolerance strategy adversely affects the public and businesses
The Beizhong International Travel Agency in the eastern city of Tianjin has had only one customer since Covid outbreaks that began in July prompted Chinese leaders to renew city lockdowns and travel controls.

Most of China is virus-free, but the abrupt, severe response to outbreaks has left would-be tourists jittery about travelling to places they might be barred from leaving. That has hit consumer spending, hindering efforts to keep the economic recovery on track.

China's "zero tolerance" strategy of trying to isolate every case and stop transmission has helped keep the country where the virus first was detected in late 2019 largely free of disease. But the public and businesses are paying a steep price.

Winter Games restrictions

Foreign athletes are due to compete in the Winter Olympics that start February 4 in Beijing and the nearby city of Zhangjiakou, but the government has yet to say whether restrictions that prevent most foreigners from entering China will be relaxed to allow spectators in.

"Two years ago, this was our busiest season," said the Beizhong agency manager, Wang Hui.

"Now, customers tend to postpone their plans because of the outbreaks," Wang said. "This year is worse than last year." China is closed to most foreign visitors and discourages its own public from travelling.

The government has yet to give final details on anti-Covid measures for the Winter Games. Some 2,900 athletes are due to compete, plus 800 more in the Paralympic Winter Games on March 4-13.

China has reported 4,636 deaths — and none since February — out of 95,577 cases since early 2020. Its total is smaller than one-day new infection figures in the United States, India and some other countries.

Since July, outbreaks blamed on travellers bringing the more contagious delta variant into the country have…
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