WASHINGTON: China has room to adjust its strict zero-COVID policy, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said Wednesday while underlining that the country’s tough virus restrictions have been especially hard on its people.
Demonstrations against the measures have erupted across major Chinese cities in recent days, in a rare outpouring of public frustration not seen since pro-democracy rallies in 1989 were crushed with deadly force.
“COVID and COVID-related restrictions are hard on people… This has been the case everywhere, and even more so in China,” an IMF spokesperson told AFP in an emailed statement.
Almost three years into the pandemic, China still deploys strict virus containment policies including snap lockdowns of entire neighbourhoods and cities to stamp out flare-ups, with the measures taking a heavy toll on consumers and businesses.
While authorities have made policies more targeted, “there is scope for further gradual, safe recalibration,” the Washington-based fund said.
The IMF spokesperson added that control measures after outbreaks, including major business hub Shanghai which was sealed off for months this year, weighed on domestic economic activity.
The zero-COVID policies have also had spillover effects outside China, interrupting regional and global supply chains.
With the country’s economy only “partially recovered so far,” an adjustment of its current policy could help growth pick up in 2023 and support the global economy at a difficult time, the IMF said.
On Tuesday, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva warned it might have to slash growth forecasts for China, saying this is a time of “high uncertainty.”
In October, the IMF cut its projection for the country’s economic growth to 3.2% this year.
Georgieva added on Tuesday that Beijing is looking into its zero-COVID approach “with a perspective to shift to a more targeted response.”
For now, China continues to see clashes between police and protesters as a wave of demonstrations sparked by COVID lockdowns expand into demands for greater freedoms.