China Covid: Young people self-infect as fears for elderly grow

The final step in China’s swift reversal of its contentious zero-Covid policy comes on Sunday when it reopens borders for international travel. With mass testing, stringent quarantines and sudden, sweeping lockdowns gone, families like Mr Chen’s are wary of what lies ahead.

But younger Chinese, all of whom did not wish to be named, feel differently – and some told the BBC they were voluntarily exposing themselves to infection.

A 27-year-old coder in Shanghai, who did not receive any of the Chinese vaccines, says he voluntarily exposed himself to the virus.

“Because I don’t want to change my holiday plan,” he explains, “and I could make sure I recovered and won’t be infected again during the holiday if I intentionally control the time I get infected.” He admits he did not expect the muscle aches that came with the infection, but says the symptoms have been largely as expected.

Another Shanghai resident, a 26-year-old woman, tells the BBC she visited her friend who had tested positive “so I could get Covid as well”.

But she says her recovery has been hard: “I thought it would be like getting a cold but it was much more painful.”