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Live news: China media say ‘normalcy’ should return by spring after Covid U-turn

China’s official media said the country should experience “normalcy” within a few months as the government extricates itself from its zero-Covid policies.

Chinese authorities this month have slashed testing requirements, allowed Covid patients to quarantine at home and lifted lockdowns in a stunning bonfire of regulations as evidence grows of a spiralling nationwide outbreak.

“Virus experts expect normalcy by spring,” reads a headline on the Covid-dedicated landing page of the China Daily, the country’s premier English-language outlet, among others such as “Experts: Omicron has lower risk of causing severe illness”.

Beijing’s public health U-turn has triggered a stark reversal from official rhetoric on the virus compared with just weeks ago, when party and government media maintained that zero-Covid was the only suitable approach.

Propaganda organs lauded Beijing’s strict approach as evidence of its concern for its people, and drew overt contrasts with relaxed restriction in western countries.

An elderly woman receives a Covid jab in Shanghai last week
An elderly woman receives a Covid jab in Shanghai last week © AFP/Getty Images

But outlets have also had to address the sharp turnround in rhetoric, painting a picture of China’s reversal as planned, economically advantageous and timed in such a way so as to avoid excess deaths.

Several models, including one part-funded by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, have predicted as many as 1mn Covid deaths in the coming months as the country dismantles its controls.

But Chinese media, despite predicting similarly cataclysmic consequences from a pivot away from zero-Covid just weeks ago, have underlined in recent days how nearly three years of strict curbs bought the country time to vaccinate its population and improve medical infrastructure.

“The shift . . . does not run counter to the hard truth that China is one of the world’s best achievers in terms of saving lives from the . . . pandemic,” read a Monday editorial in Xinhua, the official government news agency. “China has honoured what it has always said it would do —putting the people and their lives above all else.”

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