Sunday, July 3, 2022

Covid and the Psychology of Totalitarianism

Never Again? Israel’s mask mob echo the Holocaust | The Conservative Woman - Donna Edmunds:

June 30, 2022 - "In January this year, a young woman went to the opera.... The woman, known only as M, has a medical mask exemption and arrived with her face uncovered. Soon after, she was violently turned upon by her fellow opera-goers. ‘There were about 400 attendees, about 100 of them were shouting at me (people physically blocking my way to my seats and not letting me through) people telling me not to stand near them and shooing me away,’ she wrote in her Telegram post. ‘A woman hit me on the head. I didn’t speak a single word to all these people, I was literally cowering in place and at no point did I speak or reply or gesture to any of them, after the initial blow up I just went straight to security.’

"Thankfully, the security staff were supportive of M, moving away the more aggressive among the crowd and threatening to evict them. Some of the staff seemed shaken by what they had witnessed. They escorted M to her seat and stood guard at the end of her row throughout the performance. This scene would be shocking enough had it taken place somewhere like Berlin, which has seen this sort of irrational out-group persecution by supposedly enlightened citizens before. It’s all the more disturbing that it actually took place in Tel Aviv, Israel.

"Israel is a country awash with Holocaust memorials.... Yet when Covid struck in March 2020, Israel was among the countries that most enthusiastically embraced the harshest of public health measures. Its citizens suffered months of lockdowns, business closures, school closures, mask mandates and the most insulting policy of all: the ‘green pass’ – a vaccine passport which segregated society into the ‘clean’ and the ‘unclean’. Deckchairs appeared on Tel Aviv beach labelled ‘reserved for vaccinated people only’. The parallels with our history, only eight decades behind us, were striking and alarming, yet astonishingly the majority were content to sit inside warm restaurants during the winter of 2021, watching those who were unwilling or unable to be vaccinated turned away or shivering outside under inadequate patio heaters without a murmur of dissent....

"We know that nearly 400,000 Jews died in the Warsaw Ghetto, but how many of us know why the ghetto was created? That it was a public health policy? When the Germans invaded Poland in 1939 and bombed Warsaw, the city’s sewerage system was damaged and typhus quickly spread. German propaganda already blamed Jews for spreading disease, so, although typhus was found throughout the city, it was the Jewish neighbourhoods that became ‘restricted epidemic areas’. Although by the summer of 1940 typhus cases were falling, German doctors persuaded the authorities to create a ghetto to prevent further spread. The creation of the ghetto, where overcrowding and lack of food were rife, caused a spike in cases.

"Fast-forward to 2022, and not everyone was content to go along with the narrative. Some of us wondered how so many could be so blind to the history repeating in front of their eyes. What did those Tel Aviv opera-goers think they were doing when they mobbed M?

"A Belgian psychologist and academic gives us the answer. Mattias Desmet has spent the last few years studying the rise of totalitarian regimes and was already uncomfortable with the direction Western societies were headed in when Covid hit.... In his book The Psychology of Totalitarianism, Desmet explains that societies in which a large number of people have anxious, lonely lives lacking in meaning are ripe for totalitarianism to set in. In those conditions, people are looking for a narrative that creates purpose and a sense of shared endeavour. Many people found exactly that in the Covid era. If left unchecked, the false narrative of mass formation descends into violence and persecution. It descends into the Holocaust.

"Desmet explained what is required to avert this dismal fate. ‘It’s really crucial that the people who are not in the process of mass formation continue to speak out, because if they don’t, the mass hypnosis becomes deeper and deeper, and typically reaches the point where the masses become so fanatically convinced of the narrative they believe in, that they believe it is necessary to eliminate the people who don’t go along with it,’ he said. ‘This is because once someone is in mass formation he feels an overwhelming solidarity, and he’s convinced that people who don’t share the solidarity, who don’t go along with the masses, lack solidarity, lack citizenship. Consequently they are not human any more and have to be destroyed.’

"He added: ‘If dissident voices stop speaking out, then the process that happened in the Soviet Union around 1930 and in Germany around 1935 will typically start to happen [again]. Once the dissident voices, the opposition, stop speaking out within the public space, within a period of six months to one year, the cruelty starts.’

"When I heard about M’s experience, I knew I had to speak out. And I wasn’t the only one. Along with my partner and a few others, most notably historian Andrew Barr, we set about writing a declaration – a warning – from the Jews to the world. We have been here before. We know where division, demonisation and mass psychosis lead. We cannot let it happen again.

"Some have said that we are insulting those who died in the Holocaust by highlighting the clear parallels between Covid policies and the events leading to the Holocaust. We say the opposite: that only by learning from history and ensuring that nothing of the sort ever happens again can the memories of those who died truly be honoured.... Others have said that our declaration has been made redundant by the apparent rollback of Covid policies. Flights are taking off again, people are unmasked, the world is returning to a semblance of normality. To those people I say two things: first, in May, Joe Biden stated frankly: ‘Covid isn’t over.’ Second, our governments have had a taste of absolute power. They now know they can lock us up at the drop of a hat. If they’ve done it once, they will do it again, unless we make it abundantly clear that we won’t be so meek the next time....

" I invite you to sign the Isaiah 62 Declaration here."
                For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent
                For Jerusalem’s sake I will not be still
                Isaiah 62:1

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Saturday, July 2, 2022

James Topp marches into Ottawa (video)

4 arrested after soldier charged for criticizing COVID-19 mandates lands in Ottawa | Global News - Lee Berthiaume & Sarah Ritchie, Canadian Press:

June 30, 2022 - "Police arrested four people in downtown Ottawa Thursday after a Canadian soldier charged for speaking out against COVID-19 vaccine requirements led a procession into the city and delivered a speech on 'freedom' to a rapt crowd of about 1,200 supporters. James Topp was charged in February with two counts of conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline for comments made while wearing his uniform and has since been leading a four-month march to the capital from Vancouver. His march has been supported by many of the same figures involved in the 'Freedom Convoy'.... 

"Cheers and chants of 'Freedom!' erupted as he arrived at the National War Memorial on Thursday evening. He knelt, weeping, with his hand on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier before he spoke to the crowd, thanking them for their support and urging them not to give up. 'I have met thousands of people in my journey from Vancouver to Ottawa and a lot of them have lost hope. They feel lost. They’re angry. They’ve lost faith in the system. We’ve already started something,' he said. 'Heed the call. Assemble. Organize yourselves. Plan. What’s the answer? Non-violence'.... 

"Earlier Thursday, Conservative leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre joined the final leg of Topp’s march. Poilievre walked alongside Topp for about half an hour west of downtown Ottawa, where hundreds of people had gathered to see the army reservist..... When Topp said he wanted reinstatement and reparations for anyone who lost their job because of vaccine mandates, Poilievre replied: 'Everybody who lost their job simply because of a COVID mandate should be restored to their job, no question about it'..... The two were then followed by about 200 supporters, many of them carrying Canadian flags and some sporting camouflaged backpacks and other gear, as they walked down the sidewalk of a major street for about half an hour.... 

"A few hours later, hundreds of people gathered in a park south of downtown Ottawa for the final stretch to the National War Memorial. A long line of marchers, including at least one wearing a black armoured vest, snaked along the length of the park. At one point the crowd was treated to a speech by a man wearing a military beret and civilian clothes who denounced defence chief Gen. Wayne Eyre’s order that all Canadian Armed Forces members be fully vaccinated. Members of the crowd booed loudly....

"Tamara Lich, a leader of the convoy that gridlocked Ottawa in February, briefly appeared in court on Thursday after allegedly breaching one of her bail conditions. Lich, who faces multiple charges including mischief and obstructing police, will remain in custody until her bail hearing on Tuesday....

"Topp has said he has no plans to lead an occupation of the capital, and invited Ottawa police to work with him to facilitate his march through the city. However, an organizer for a group calling itself Veterans 4 Freedom said in a recent video posted to YouTube that it plans to set up a semi-permanent camp east of Ottawa called “Camp Eagle” and hold events in the city all summer....

"The charges against Topp relate to two videos posted online in the winter in which the army reservist appears in uniform criticizing vaccine requirements for military personnel and other federal employees. Canadian Armed Forces members are severely restricted in the comments they can make while in uniform, particularly when it comes to criticizing government policies, in large part to protect the military from any perception of politicization. His lawyer has argued such restrictions should not apply to policies that affect Armed Forces members personally.

"More than two dozen Conservative MPs hosted Topp and other leading figures in the 'Freedom Convoy' on Parliament Hill last week, posing for pictures, promising their support and listening to a lecture on the purported dangers of COVID-19 vaccines.... Topp told the MPs that he was marching in part to get all vaccine mandates repealed, as well as to demand the reinstatement of anyone who lost their job because of such a requirement and compensation for wages lost."

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Friday, July 1, 2022

Freedom Convoy Ottawa protesters call for calm, as Trudeau government re-jails Tamara Lich

Freedom Convoy leader Tamara Lich arrested in Alberta, accused of breaching bail conditions | CBC News - Meghan Grant:

Jun 27, 2022 - "Freedom Convoy leader Tamara Lich has been rearrested in Medicine Hat, Alta., for allegedly breaching her bail conditions, her lawyers have confirmed. Lich was taken into custody Monday evening, according to Keith Wilson, who represents Lich on her non-criminal cases including a lawsuit.... Lich is charged with one count of failing to comply with her release order in a warrant issued by Ontario authorities, which means she is alleged to have breached her condition in that province. She must appear in court in Ontario within six days. Police say Lich will be taken to Ottawa and is due to appear in court in that city this week. 

"Eric Granger, who is one of Lich's criminal defence lawyers also confirmed Lich's arrest. Granger says he has no reason to believe his client has done anything wrong and is 'looking to learn more at this stage.'"
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Freedom Convoy leader Tamara Lich to remain in custody over Canada Day weekend | CBC News - Dan Taekema:

June 30, 2022 - "Freedom Convoy leader Tamara Lich will remain in custody over the Canada Day weekend after she was arrested this week for allegedly breaching her bail conditions. Lich was taken into custody in Medicine Hat, Alta., on Monday after Ottawa police issued a Canada-wide warrant for her arrest. She was brought back to the nation's capital and made a brief court appearance Thursday. Crown prosecutor Moiz Karimjee requested a full day for a bail hearing, which is scheduled to take place on July 5.

"Lich remains in custody as several groups — most of which formed out of the Freedom Convoy — are planning protests in Ottawa starting on July 1 and continuing throughout the summer."
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Canada Day update: "Freedom" protest party moves to Strathcona Park, organizers call for calm | Ottawa Citizen - Jacquie Miller:

June 29, 2022 - "'Freedom' groups protesting pandemic public-health measures are moving their Canada Day party to Strathcona Park in Sandy Hill. Their plans to hold a 'freedoming' picnic on the lawn of the Supreme Court of Canada near the Parliament buildings were thwarted after a fence about eight feet tall and concrete barriers were installed in front of the court on Wellington Street. 'Freedom' advocates say plans for a July 1 march downtown and a dance party on Parliament Hill are going ahead as planned....

"Two key people in the 'freedom' movement are urging demonstrators to be peaceful as anger mounts over this week’s arrest in Alberta of 'freedom convoy' leader Tamara Lich for allegedly breaching bail conditions....

"'Obviously everybody is in an uproar (about Lich) and rightfully so,' said Jerome O’Sullivan, a key person in the Freedom Fighters Canada group, in a video on social media.... 'They are trying to piss us off, trying to provoke us right now so we get violent so they can arrest us. They are trying to shut down this movement. We haven’t given them a reason, we have the right to peacefully assemble and express ourselves and we will continue to do so. But we are going to do it legally and lawfully.'

"Another key figure in the 'freedom' movement has urged people to join the protest march by James Topp in Ottawa on June 30 and the Canada Day events partly to show support for Lich and fellow convoy leader Patrick King, who is in jail awaiting trial. 'We cannot allow them to be locked up and chased down by a tyrannical government,' said a video posted on social media by Dave of Live from the Shed, a multimedia company that promotes and livestreams 'freedom' events. Dave also urged everyone to be peaceful. 'We are not going to become like the government which is attacking us. They want to stir up violence. They want you to riot, but we’re not going to do that, Canada. We are going to maintain our integrity. And we’re going to keep holding the line, just as we did in Ottawa (at the convoy protest).'"
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Thursday, June 30, 2022

SF Covid data shows no effect of mask mandate

Do mask mandates work? Bay Area COVID data from June says no | SFGATE - Eric Ting:

June 29, 2022 - "In early June, during an uptick in COVID-19 cases, Alameda County was the only [San Francisco] Bay Area county to bring back an indoor mask mandate. At the time, county Health Officer Dr. Nicholas Moss said, 'Putting our masks back on gives us the best opportunity to limit the impact of a prolonged wave on our communities.' But regional case data provides no discernible evidence that the rule, which was lifted June 25, succeeded at that goal.

"The graphs below compare Alameda County’s seven-day average case rate from the past two months to rates in neighboring Contra Costa, Santa Clara and San Francisco counties. Contra Costa and Santa Clara, in particular, are natural comparisons to Alameda, because they have similar vaccination rates and demographic data. San Francisco, on the other side of the bay, provides an additional point of reference. All data comes from the California Department of Public Health.

"The case rate curves for Alameda and Contra Costa counties are near-identical. Because the neighboring counties are similar in so many respects, if masking policy had an impact on pandemic outcomes, one would expect to see some sort of discrepancy in the graph.

"San Francisco and Santa Clara had higher case rates than Alameda County throughout the current surge, including pre-mask mandate. Once the mandate was introduced, the three counties all followed the same trend line, casting doubt on whether the mask mandate did anything to curb transmission at the community level.

"SFGATE sent Moss these graphs via email and asked whether he can point to any evidence that his county’s mandate had an impact on reducing caseloads. 'We believe the recent mask order contributed to the improvements we are now observing with COVID-19 in Alameda County,' Moss said in a statement. 'Published evidence shows that high levels of community masking lowers transmission rates and survey data displayed an increase in masking during the recent Order timeframe,' he added. 'In fact, Alameda County observed higher masking rates than anywhere else in the Country at the time.' The Alameda County Health Department did not respond to follow-up questions on ... how, if that statement were true, the graphs wouldn't cut against the claim that 'high levels of community masking lowers transmission rates'....

"After viewing the case rate graphs, UCSF’s Dr. Bob Wachter — one of the region’s more cautious COVID-19 experts and a supporter of mask mandates — echoed many of that article’s sentiments, stating that mandates don’t appear to increase the 'probability of people wearing good masks correctly.... If the mandate came with enforcement of wearing a good (N95 or equivalent) mask correctly, it might demonstrate a significant advantage in preventing cases,' he wrote to SFGATE in an email. 'But there is no real enforcement (certainly not of correct masking using a good mask), which means that the rates of effective masking probably isn’t very different in [the Bay Area counties being compared].'

"If, in order to have an impactful mask mandate, enforcement teams must ensure that people are correctly wearing N95s indoors, it seems like a policy doomed to fail whenever implemented. It also raises questions of whether the costs of such enforcement would exceed the benefits.... Over the past two months, hospitalizations across the Bay Area have come nowhere close to the winter omicron numbers, which may not have accurately reflected the actual impact of the disease on hospitals. Alameda County's hospitalization-per-capita numbers are comparable to Contra Costa's and Santa Clara's....

"Wachter’s UCSF colleague Dr. Jeanne Noble, too, is a proponent of high-risk individuals protecting themselves through careful mask usage. Mandates, she told SFGATE in April, drive people to wear low-quality masks, which are 'not likely to make any measurable difference in viral transmission so it doesn’t matter whether you or others are wearing one.... Mask mandates may create a false sense of reassurance to those who truly need the extra protection,' Noble said in April. “The severely immunocompromised person ... should not opt for a cloth or surgical mask because other people around them are masked and therefore assume it is 'safe enough' to avoid the tight fitting and uncomfortable N95.'"

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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Calgary court rounds up shoppers for jury duty

During jury selection, a Calgary, Alberta court ran low on potential jurors -- so court officials went to a nearby mall and rounded up 50 shoppers to add to the jury pool. (Yes, that's legal in Canada.) 

50 Calgarians summoned from mall for immediate jury selection | CBC News - Jade Markus:

June 18, 2022 - "Dozens of Calgarians were summoned for jury selection — immediately — during lunch hour at a downtown Calgary mall this week, invoking a rare procedure imported from England. Alberta officers issued 50 summonses to people who were at the Core Shopping Centre on Thursday, documents which required the recipient to at once go to the Calgary Courts Centre, a few blocks away. 

"The unusual course of action was enacted after the court realized the jury pool wasn't big enough for an upcoming trial, as too many jurors were exempted due to several factors, said Donna Spaner, a prosecutor in jury selection who was at the court on Thursday. Among those factors were summer vacation and the subject matter of the trial, according to Spaner. That resulted in a Queen's Bench justice issuing the summons in order to fill that gap, she said. 

"'The court clerks and the sheriff went over to the mall, and just started handing members of the downtown lunch crowd these summons that required them to attend the courthouse,' Spaner said. 'I can tell you with certainty a number of people whose Thursday afternoon was inconvenienced were not particularly thrilled'.... 

Barbaric Genie, Core Shopping Centre, Calgary, Alberta, 2014. CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons.

"Balfour Der, criminal law defence attorney and criminal law textbook author, said the procedure that was invoked on Thursday is called Talesman, and it was imported to Canada from England.... 'They are just picked off the streets and brought in to be part of the potential pool of prospective jurors who could be picked for a particular jury.' 

"But those searching for a soft pretzel or a new pair of shoes shouldn't be afraid of going to the mall — Der says it's rare that a potential jury supply is completely depleted for an upcoming trial. 'It is very rarely used. It's very rare that you ever exhaust a panel of prospective jurors, but it can happen'.... A spokesperson for Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro said the last time the procedure was enacted was 1996 in Calgary and December 2020 in Edmonton....

"In this case, 80 potential jurors came to court for jury duty and there weren't enough people to select two juries. The first jury was selected but the second was short six jurors, so additional people were needed.... The spokesperson said if the people who were brought in on Thursday are selected to serve as a juror they would be required to return to court for the trial.

"'Trial by jury is a cornerstone of our criminal justice system. Implicit in the right to a jury trial is that the jury will be chosen randomly, and will be impartial and representative of the larger community. Jury management works hard to avoid the need to rely on the Talesman procedure,' the spokesperson said. 'Unfortunately, and as mentioned above, the number of potential jurors exempted in the days leading up to and on the day of jury selection ultimately resulted in its use.'"

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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

ZeroCovid group declares monkeypox a pandemic

World Health Network declares Monkeypox a pandemic | Mint

June 24. 2022 - "With 3,417 confirmed Monkeypox cases reported across 58 countries, World Health Network (WHN) has announced that they are declaring the current monkeypox outbreak a pandemic. The WHN announcement comes ahead of WHO [World Health Organiztion] meeting to be held on 23 June to decide on their monkeypox outbreak designation....

"The outbreak will not stop without concerted global action, [WHN] said. Even with death rates much lower than smallpox, unless actions are taken to stop the ongoing spread ... millions of people will die and many more will become blind and disabled, it said... WHN said that the essential purpose of declaring Monkeypox a pandemic is to achieve a concerted effort across multiple countries or over the world to prevent widespread harm.

"'There is no justification to wait for the monkeypox pandemic to grow further. The best time to act is now. By taking immediate action, we can control the outbreak with the least effort, and prevent consequences from becoming worse.... Any delay only makes the effort harder and the consequences more severe', said Yaneer Bar-Yam,* PhD, President of New England Complex System Institute and co-founder of WHN.

"'The WHO needs to urgently declare its own Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) — the lessons of not declaring a PHEIC immediately in early January 2020 should be remembered as a history lesson of what acting late on an epidemic can mean for the world,' said Eric Feigl-Ding,* PhD, Epidemiologist and Health Economist, and co-founder of WHN."
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WHO: Monkeypox outbreak not yet a global public health emergency | Stat - Andrew Joseph:

June 25, 2022 - "The World Health Organization on Saturday declined to declare the unprecedented monkeypox outbreak that has spread around the world a public health emergency as of now. A public health emergency of international concern, or PHEIC, grants the WHO director-general certain powers, such as the ability to recommend how countries should respond.... The announcement came after a WHO emergency committee met Thursday to discuss the outbreak. Some 3,000 cases have been documented since mid-May, ... outside the regions in West and Central Africa where the virus is endemic and has animal reservoirs. Most of the cases have been in gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men, with many occurring in men who have had multiple recent sex partners. One death has been reported, in an immunocompromised person....

"Gregg Gonsalves,* an associate professor of epidemiology at Yale School of Public Health, disagreed with WHO’s decision, which he called a 'punt.' He said he felt that the criteria had been met and that a PHEIC declaration could have pushed public health authorities to step up their response and coordinate better across countries. Gonsalves served as an adviser to the emergency committee, but did not have a say in whether to recommend a PHEIC be declared.

"Monkeypox infections can lead to painful lesions and rashes, including vesicles forming on the palms.... Many of the cases in the current outbreak have been comparatively mild, though some patients have been hospitalized for pain management as the infection runs its course.... In the current outbreak, ... the United States has reported 200 monkeypox cases, Germany has identified more than 675 cases, Portugal more than 300, and the United Kingdom more than 900. South Africa on Thursday also reported a case in a person who had no recent travel history....

"The PHEIC designation was created in an update to the International Health Regulations following the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak....The first PHEIC was declared for the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, and others have included Ebola outbreaks and the Zika epidemic. The two active PHEICs are for Covid-19 and the continued transmission of polio."
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* signatory of the John Snow Memorandum 

Monday, June 27, 2022

Lockdown in Shenzhen, China, for 11 Covid cases

Coronavirus: Chinese factory hub Shenzhen shuts down Hong Kong border district for 3 days | South China Morning Post - Amanda Lee:

June 26, 2022 - "China’s southern manufacturing powerhouse of Shenzhen has closed wholesale markets, cinemas and gyms in a central district bordering Hong Kong for three days as it steps up to prevent a wider spread of Covid-19. The Shenzhen municipal health commission said all bars and parks would be shut in Futian district, and public events suspended, after nearly a dozen local cases were found over Friday and Saturday. Shenzhen reported seven local cases, five of which were symptomatic, on Friday and four local asymptomatic cases on Saturday. All of the cases were found in Futian district, except for one case in Luohu district on Saturday.

"Some bus and subway services have also been suspended in the district, home to around 1.55 million people and one of the world’s largest electronics markets. Restaurants are limited to 50 per cent of capacity. The measures will last at least three days, and then be 'adjusted' according to the disease situation, the commission said.

"Daily Covid-19 nucleic acid test results have now become necessary for using public transport or entering public venues in Futian, after the testing window for negative reports was shortened from 48 hours to 24.

Charlie Fong, Panorama of Futian district, Shenzhen, 2021. CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons.

"The latest restrictions in Shenzhen, a city of 17.5 million that saw a sudden weeklong lockdown in March, underscore the challenges of trying to stamp out the highly transmissible Omicron variant as China sticks to a 'dynamic zero-Covid' policy. Two of China’s largest cities, the capital Beijing and the financial and business hub of Shanghai, have been battling a resurgence of Covid-19 since late March, with Shanghai emerging from a two-month citywide lockdown only on June 1.... Strict containment measures are part of China’s continued adherence to its zero-Covid policy, which aims to eliminate all outbreaks. However, while the curbs may have reduced the spread of infections, they have also fuelled frustrations among both local and international businesses and taken a heavy toll on the economy.

"A Futian resident who did not want to be named said his community had been designated as a 'controlled' area for a week from June 18, after one case was detected. 'Compared with the seven-day lockdown in March, I think the snap lockdown is better and more flexible,' ... the resident said. However, locals were concerned when they were told not to leave their homes during that period. Under the Guangdong provincial government’s definition of a 'controlled' area, the second in a three-tier Covid-zoning system, residents can leave their homes and move around within the community....

"Brian Miller, chief executive of Easy China Warehouse in Shenzhen’s Baoan district, said measures such as mandating negative coronavirus test results in getting around many parts of the city had been effective in preventing extensive lockdowns.... However, Miller also noted that the strict curbs had placed a financial burden on business owners and put off people from travelling in and out of China....

"'I haven’t left [China] for three years,' Miller added. 'One of the reasons why I haven’t left is not only because of the border [restrictions]. I’m just worried that there might be some policy that might not allow me to come back in, as a foreign national.'"

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