The health committee of Zhumadian, a prefecture-level city in Henan with a population of seven million, wrote on its official WeChat page that the impact of three years under "excessive pandemic control measures" has been "devastating" and sometimes even "brutal" due to the severe implementation of zero-COVID measures. (Related: Rare nationwide protests erupt across China to challenge CCP's zero-COVID policy.)
Criticism coming from a local public health body is very rare in China due to fear of retribution.
The municipal health committee is responsible for supervising public health policies implemented by CCP higher-ups and forced onto local jurisdictions, in this case in Zhumadian. The health committee's post was immediately deleted after its publication, either by the health committee itself or by Chinese internet censors. But screenshots of the post circulated widely all over Chinese social media websites, as well as on the web page of a leading Chinese economic think tank.
Other CCP officials have become more willing to criticize Beijing's zero-COVID policies by pointing out that the coronavirus is far less threatening now, and even the more infectious omicron variant poses much less of a risk.
Due to immense pressure both from the Chinese populace and from within the CCP, officials have vowed to drop some zero-COVID measures in an attempt to appease the thousands of people protesting all over the country.
In Beijing, city residents were surprised when they were suddenly allowed to enter parks, supermarkets, office buildings and airports without needing to present a recent negative COVID-19 test.
"Beijing readies itself for life again," read a headline in the government-owned China Daily newspaper, noting that people were "gradually embracing" their newfound freedoms.
"This might be the first step toward reopening," said Hu Dongxu, 27, a city resident interviewed by Reuters regarding the near-constant testing as he swiped his travel card to enter a train station in Beijing without needing to present a recent negative test.
Other restrictions that were relaxed include open-ended lockdowns and requirements that Chinese citizens present clean bills of health to access certain public areas.
A week later, top CCP officials also announced that they would stop requiring some zero-COVID requirements related to travel. Beginning Monday, Dec. 12, the part of a mandatory smartphone app that recorded a person's travel between cities and provinces started showing an out-of-service message.
Before the closure of this app, known as the Communications Itinerary Card app, people were required to enter their phone numbers in the app. If they were allowed to travel between provinces and participate in social events, it would present them with a green arrow.
Another mandatory app used to track and restrict the movement of Chinese citizens who test positive for COVID-19 or enter an area with a recent COVID-19 case remains in effect. Other COVID-19-related apps, some of which are used to suppress protests against zero-COVID, remain in effect.
Economic forecasters are looking at China's relaxation of policies with some optimism. The Chinese yuan has risen by about five percent against the dollar since early November in light of expectations that the Chinese economy will reopen further.
At the same time, investors are slightly apprehensive as the Chinese economy has shrunk by 2.6 percent from the previous quarter, with imports tumbling by nearly 11 percent from a year ago. Forecasters have also slashed their outlook for annual growth to below three percent, nearly a third less than last year's robust 8.1 percent expansion.
Learn more about recent events in China, including the anti-zero-COVID protests, at CommunistChina.news.
Watch this episode of the "Health Ranger Report" as Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, discusses how China is waging war on its own citizens while at the same time preparing to go to war against the United States.