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What China’s ‘Zero Covid’ Policy Has Looked Like

For a long time during the coronavirus pandemic, China’s aggressive approach to stamping out cases worked. It has kept deaths from Covid-19 much lower than the rest of the world, most notably in comparison with the United States.

But in recent months, that approach, called “zero Covid,” seemed increasingly outdated. China’s residents were still subject to snap lockdowns, mass testing and harsh quarantines while the rest of the world adapted to living with the virus. Frustrated citizens demonstrated on the streets in late November, some even calling for the Communist Party and its leader, Xi Jinping, to step down.

On Wednesday, the party rolled back some of the strictest restrictions in a dramatic reversal. But that easing came long after the policy had caused social and economic turmoil in China.

The following photos illustrate life this year in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, some of the country’s biggest cities, beginning with the row of plastic barriers that closed off an area of a park in Shenzhen in November.

Credit…Qilai Shen for The New York Times

Workers in Shenzhen fumigating a manhole in November.

Credit…Qilai Shen for The New York Times

A Shanghai office building converted into a temporary isolation center in April.

Credit…The New York Times

A coronavirus testing booth in Shanghai in December.

Credit…The New York Times

The second night of Shanghai protests in November drew a heavy police presence.

Credit…The New York Times

A Shanghai building under lockdown in March.

Credit…Qilai Shen for The New York Times

A temporary isolation point for people with Covid in Shenzhen in November.

Credit…Qilai Shen for The New York Times

A fenced-off Shanghai neighborhood in April.

Credit…The New York Times

A child and his grandparents registering at a testing site in Shanghai in April.

Credit…The New York Times

Health workers in Shanghai directing residents at a community testing center in March.

Credit…Qilai Shen for The New York Times

A man in Beijing getting a coronavirus test in September.

Credit…Gilles Sabrié for The New York Times

An exhausted worker in Shanghai in March.

Credit…Qilai Shen for The New York Times

Wooden boards walled off a Shanghai neighborhood in March.

Credit…Qilai Shen for The New York Times

A woman exercising while in isolation in Shanghai in April.

Credit…The New York Times

Quarantine workers near a Shanghai neighborhood that had just been ordered to lock down in March.

Credit…Qilai Shen for The New York Times

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