China faces a difficult road to normalization as infections surge. WGN Radio 720

BEIJING (AP) – After a three-year quarantine neared closure, restaurant owner Li Meng and his wife hope their business will bounce back after China rolls back strict virus measures. .

As sales gradually recover, they face new challenges. Diners are wary of a wave of infections in the country. At 8pm on a Wednesday night he had only 3 of the 20 tables filled.

China is turning a bumpy road back to normal, with people returning to schools, shopping malls and restaurants after some of the world’s toughest restrictions came to an abrupt end.

“Many people are still watching because they are afraid of being infected,” Lee said. “Eating out can be postponed for now.”

The ruling Communist Party began lifting tests, quarantines and other restrictions in November in an attempt to reverse a deepening economic recession.

The “No COVID” strategy has confined millions of families to their homes for weeks at a time, shut down most travel to and from China, and emptied the busy streets of major cities. Although held low, economic growth has been crushed and protests have intensified.

Yang Mingyue, 28, who lives in Beijing, said, “People went back to work and saw their children in shopping malls. “Everything is back to normal. It’s really fun.”

The ruling party has shifted toward joining the US and other governments trying to coexist with the disease rather than eradicating it. Experts say it’s necessary to prevent a health crisis.

The public expressed concern over the wave of infections, but welcomed the change in strategy.

“It’s certainly a little worrying, but you have to work normally to live, right?” said Yue Hongzhu, 40, a supermarket manager.

“The fact that the government allowed it to be opened means it’s not that bad, right?” said Yue. “If the virus is so contagious that everyone’s lives are in danger, the government will not let go.”

On Tuesday, the government announced it would ease restrictions on travel outside China and resume issuing passports for tourism for the first time in almost three years. This sets up a potential flood of Chinese travelers going abroad at a time when other governments are wary of rising infections.

The US, Japan and other governments have announced virus testing requirements for travelers arriving from China. They cite a lack of information from Beijing about the virus’ spread and possible mutation into new forms.

“The epidemic is evolving relatively quickly,” said Wu Zunyu, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, at a news conference on Thursday. “Winter population flows and the risk of respiratory infections may further complicate the epidemic situation.”

With global demand for China’s exports weakening after the US Federal Reserve and European Central Bank hiked interest rates to cool economic activity and curb surging inflation, the ruling party is pushing consumers away. Faced with increasing pressure to keep away from home and spending.

China retail sales fell 5.9% year-on-year in November. Imports fell by 10.9%, signaling a deepening fall in China’s domestic demand.

Exports in November fell 9% year-on-year. Forecasters say the Chinese economy probably contracted in the final quarter of the year. They have cut their annual growth forecast to less than 3%, which he will see in any year other than 2020, the lowest in recent decades.

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in China, more than 70% of businesses responding to this month’s poll said “China will recover from the current COVID outbreak in early 2023, after which inbound and outbound business and tourism will resume. I am confident that we can do it.”

ING economist Iris Pang wrote in a report that slowing exports will make it harder to recover from lockdowns. “Timing is not perfect,” she wrote.

Restaurateur Li said he and his wife moved to Beijing 10 years ago to open a restaurant focused on cuisine from the southwestern province of Yunnan.

They invested their savings and mortgaged the house to open two more outlets in 2019, just before the pandemic hit.

“The priority now is survival,” Lee said. He said it could take up to three months for him to return to normal with less than half of his pre-pandemic sales.

Another restaurant waiter, Shi Runfei, said antivirus rules prevented him from visiting his hometown in neighboring Hebei province for much of last year, necessitating a lengthy quarantine when travel was allowed. said.

“Not now. Of course, there are still risks, but we just need to protect ourselves.”


Contributed by AP Video Producers Olivia Zhang and Wayne Zhang. China faces a difficult road to normalization as infections surge. WGN Radio 720

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