China Covid: Unrest continues in Guangzhou as lockdown anger grows

People in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou have clashed with police overnight in the latest protest against the country’s strict Covid rules.

Footage online showed police in white hazmat suits clutching riot shields to protect themselves from debris and glass thrown at them by protesters.

Another video showed people being taken away in handcuffs.

On Wednesday city officials said Covid restrictions would be relaxed in several districts.

China has seen record numbers of new cases in recent days.

According to posts on social media, the protests took place late on Tuesday and into the early hours of Wednesday in the district of Haizhu.

One Guangzhou resident told news agency AFP that he saw around 100 police officers converge on Houjiao village in Haizhu and arrest at least three men.

Haizhu was also the scene of angry Covid protests earlier this month.

The latest unrest follows a wave of protest in China over the weekend, triggered by a fire in a high-rise block in the western Xinjiang region that killed 10 people on Thursday. Many Chinese believe long-running Covid restrictions in the city contributed to the deaths, although the authorities deny this.

That prompted people in Shanghai and Beijing and other big cities to take to the streets, demanding an end to strict Covid measures – with some also calling for President Xi Jinping to stand down.

Those protests later ebbed amid heavy a heavy police presence where demonstrations had taken place.

The country’s top security agency has since called for a crackdown on “hostile forces” and there have been reports of police contacting protesters, demanding information about where they had been.

On Tuesday health officials were asked if there were any plans to relax Covid measures in light of the protests – one official said China would “fine-tune and modify” measures to control the “negative impact on people’s livelihoods and lives”.

China remains the only major economy with a strict zero-Covid policy, with local authorities clamping down on even small outbreaks with mass testing, quarantines and snap lockdowns.

While China developed its own Covid vaccines, they are not as good as the mRNA technology – such as the Pfizer and Moderna shots – used elsewhere.

Two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine give 90% protection against severe disease or death versus 70% with China’s Sinovac.

The vaccines have also not been given to enough people. Far too few of the elderly – who are most likely to die from Covid – have been immunized.

There is also very little “natural immunity” from people surviving infections as a consequence of stopping the virus in its tracks.

It means new variants spread far more quickly than the virus that emerged three years ago and there is a constant risk of it being imported from countries that are letting the virus spread.

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