Babies continuously tested, businesses struggling: China’s COVID Zero policy makes life harder for citizens
11/09/2021 // Zoey Sky // Views

Ruili, a remote border town in China, has been in numerous lockdowns for over a year because of the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19). Recently, over 30,000 visitors were trapped in Shanghai Disneyland after one visitor tested positive for COVID-19. In Beijing, hundreds of commuters went into quarantine after a train attendant was confirmed as a close contact of a confirmed case.

These incidents happened as China continues to enforce its draconian COVID Zero policy to squash the pandemic. Citizens have spoken up about their hardships, but authorities continue to ignore their pleas.

Mothers in Ruili posted online to air their grievances, with some saying that very young children have been subjected to at least 100 swab tests. Other citizens shared that they are forced to spend months in isolation even though several COVID-19 tests have come back negative.

Many restaurants in China have been closed for nearly a year to the despair of owners.

Infections continue to spread in provinces despite COVID Zero measures

During the early days of the pandemic, China closed off Wuhan to curb outbreaks. But the delta variant has put China through one of its biggest COVID-19 outbreaks since 2020.

Despite new lockdowns and other strict measures enforced throughout the country, infections continue to spread to more provinces. Aside from lockdowns, China is using mass testing and mandatory quarantine to control infections once positive cases are confirmed.

Meanwhile, countries like Australia and Singapore are slowly easing restrictions.


According to data from Johns Hopkins University, China has done better in the pandemic compared to most countries. China has 110,000 confirmed cases and fewer than 5,000 deaths, while the U.S. has more than 46 million cases and almost 750,000 deaths.

Chinese President Xi Jinping hasn't left the country since January 2020. Instead, he maintained virtual appearances at global summits like the Group of 20 meeting in Rome. Xi took part in the ongoing climate summit in Scotland by sending a written statement.

Health experts advised that strict COVID Zero restrictions in China may continue until 2022.

On Oct. 31, over 30,000 people were locked inside Shanghai Disneyland to undergo swab tests. Visitors were only allowed to leave after testing because one visitor tested positive for COVID-19.

Xuefei Ren, a sociologist at Michigan State University, said that China has imposed one of the strictest control measures in the world. China's system, one based on control with both local and nationwide surveillance mechanisms, has proven to be effective in a crisis.

Despite their hardships, citizens rarely complain as they obey all policies. But Ren also warned that the effects of a tightly controlled border on citizens shouldn't be ignored. Ren hasn't seen her father in China for almost two years and she warned that the COVID Zero policy has caused "immeasurable" loss to individuals and businesses.

Chinese officials have yet to announce when restrictions will loosen and it doesn't seem like they will anytime soon. The Winter Olympics will be held in Beijing in February and the 20th Party Congress will commence next fall.

Zhong Nanshan, China's top respiratory disease expert, said that the country's COVID Zero policy is justified since it's less costly than ending and reintroducing restrictions with each new outbreak. He also predicted that China will achieve herd immunity in the first half of 2022, but he thinks Chinese travel overseas won't return to normal before the end of next year.

COVID Zero measures strictest in Beijing

Over 300 top Chinese officials will gather in Beijing this November and efforts to protect the country's capital from COVID-19 have reached new heights.

Like the infection scare in Shanghai Disneyland, hundreds of people on a high-speed train from Shanghai to Beijing were evacuated on Nov. 4 and sent into quarantine after a train attendant was named as a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case.

Two Beijing schools were closed on Nov. 1 after a teacher at one location and a student at another tested positive. According to a video spreading online, the principal of one school told parents to bring pillows and blankets because their children had to wait for test results in the school overnight.

Over a dozen other schools also closed after it was revealed that staff members received their booster shots at the same vaccination site as the teacher who tested positive.

Residents in Beijing also reported that they were being sent to centralized quarantine or being locked in their homes with sensors outside their doors. The residents were quarantined after a contact-tracing app identified them as having been to the same location as confirmed cases, even if they were only there for several minutes while wearing face masks.

On Nov 1., China's Ministry of Commerce told households and vendors to stock up on essential supplies ahead of winter. Many believed the warning hinted at upcoming lockdowns, but the ministry then told people not to overthink the announcement. (Related: People around the world rally against lockdowns, vaccine mandates and vaccine passports.)

Ruili citizens ask for help amid COVID Zero policies

Ruili has reported fewer than 300 locally transmitted cases in 2021, but there have been over 700 cases among returnees from abroad since July. According to data from Yunnan's provincial health commission, most of the confirmed COVID-19 cases came from Myanmar.

Earlier in 2021, Ruili's former party chief was fired due to the "severe negligence" of his duty in COVID-19 control. Officials claimed that four lockdowns enforced in Ruili since September 2020 and other strict controls helped stop the spread of the virus from Myanmar.

Some of the supermarkets in Ruili have reopened since closing in March but residents are scared of being ordered to quarantine. To avoid detection, Ruili residents shop at night when patrols are looser.

In a Weibo post last October, a college student said her parents have lost their jobs after Ruili closed a jewelry trading market along the border. According to the post on the Twitter-like platform, the student's parents have no means to pay for their younger brother's schooling.

The student's post also mentioned that many families "in R" suffer the same fate. The post received over 120,000 likes and the "R" reference seems to be an attempt to avoid censorship of posts related to the strict Ruili restrictions.

Another Ruili resident also complained online because he was unable to leave after 21 days in a makeshift quarantine center even though all his COVID-19 tests were negative. Another was in despair because he has received almost 100 COVID-19 tests.

At a news conference in late October, Vice Mayor Yang Mou acknowledged that Ruili residents were experiencing severe hardships. However, Mou said the measures were for the greater good, especially since "there are still spillover risks" if COVID-19 case "isn’t reduced to zero."

Joerg Wuttke, president of the European Chamber of Commerce in China, explained that the country's restrictions are making it more difficult for foreign companies to plan for the future. Business travelers and specialists are now more reluctant to travel to China because of strict travel restrictions and at least three weeks in quarantine.

Go to for more articles about China's COVID Zero policy and its effect on citizens and businesses in the country.

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