On Thursday, authorities in the northwestern city of Lanzhou made a rare apology after a three-year-old boy died of carbon monoxide poisoning following his denial of medical treatment during a weeks-long Covid lockdown.
Officials on Saturday criticised the use of “excessively layered” and “one-size-fits-all” policies in some locales but insisted the overall zero-tolerance virus approach was “correct”.
Chinese stocks jumped on Friday in part on rumours that China might loosen the policies, which include a ten-day quarantine for inbound travellers and a “circuit-breaker” on COVID-affected international passenger flights.
The Hang Seng Index closed up more than 5 per cent, while bourses in Shanghai and Shenzhen rose 2.4 per cent and 3.2 per cent respectively.
But a reopening still appears to be a long way off, with areas contributing over 10 per cent of China’s overall gross domestic product under some form of enhanced virus curbs as of Thursday, according to a calculation by Nomura.
The Japanese bank also warned that the impact of any policy easing “would likely be very limited” and said it foresaw a “very small probability to materially ending (zero-COVID) before March 2023”.
China’s year-on-year economic growth rebounded to 3.9 per cent in the third quarter of this year, but analysts still expect Beijing to miss its stated goal of around 5.5 per cent annual GDP growth by a wide margin.
President Xi Jinping, who has made fighting the pandemic a cornerstone of the ruling Communist Party’s legitimacy, lauded zero-COVID’s “significant positive results” at a congress last month as he sealed a precedent-busting third term in power.