context: Local officials continue to ‘over-react’ to the COVID-19 pandemic, even though the central government now repeatedly warns against blocking logistics and transport in the name of preventing COVID-19 and stresses minimising Zero-COVID’s economic cost. This is because previously, local government officials were punished for failing to prevent the epidemic rather than for creating an economic slowdown. This forced officials to prioritise the Zero-COVID policy and not ratchet up prevention criteria. The latest development marks the first time that officials have been punished for over-prevention and blocking logistics, signalling a shift to prioritising the economy. But the shift is limited. Firstly, it is a just warning. Second, the warning was announced by the State Council, which does not have too much say in personnel movement, unlike the Central Commission of Discipline and Inspection.

The State Council issued a notice warning Shangluo in Shaanxi province, Anqing in Anhui province and Zhangjiakou in Hebei province for rolling out unreasonably strict COVID prevention policies. These localities limit logistical tracking passes regardless of whether drivers have sufficient documents of passage stipulated by the State Council.

The notice stated that all localities must not block trucks coming from low-risk areas once drivers provide documents stipulated by the State Council. Localities will be punished severely if they excessively interrupt logistics, the notice reiterated. COVID checkpoints must be sufficient, but not impede traffic flow on highways.

The notice urged localities to strengthen supervision over ratcheting up COVID prevention criteria.