Hutong cat | China and Covid: From Wuhan to a Zero Covid Policy


In late July, Zhang Wenhong, a well-known infectious disease expert, wrote about China’s need to exist long-term with the coronavirus that causes Covid-19.

“What we’ve been through isn’t the hardest part. It is more difficult to find the wisdom to coexist with the virus in the long term, ”Zhang wrote on social media. “The way China will choose in the future will … help build communication with the world and a return to normal life while protecting citizens from fear of viruses,” Zhang wrote.

Instead of the “wisdom” of which Zhang spoke, the hatred of his view came thick and fast: Zhang was demonized on China’s Twitter-like Weibo as a “traitor” who flattered Western ideas by the same netizens who had compared him up to then affectionately with the American epidemiologist Anthony Fauci.

Shanghai’s renowned Fudan University wasted no time in opening a plagiarism check for his doctoral thesis submitted two decades ago.

Often quoted by official Chinese media about the pandemic, Zhang fell silent on the radio.

However, the message was shrill and loud – do not question China’s “zero covid” policy.

Two months later and less than 100 days before the 2022 Winter Olympics, China continues its policy of eradicating Covid-19 from the country, infection by infection, even as countries like Singapore and New Zealand move towards co-existence.

The Covid Zero policy essentially means canceling the community broadcast and not a single case that has been reported for at least a month.

China is implementing the policy through strict bans after even a handful of cases are detected, efficient contact tracing, tough quarantine measures, and controlled or closed international borders.

It also includes large-scale nucleic acid tests, sometimes repeated on the same population, as well as mandatory travel and health code management.

So far, however, China has not been able to hit the “zero covid” mark, which raises questions about the effectiveness of the approach.

Since mid-2020, small, sporadic outbreaks have been reported from almost all Chinese provinces except Tibet; several this year were triggered by the delta variant.

But politics has not let up.

Example: Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu Province, a city of four million people, was locked down in late October after six cases were reported in one day – in all 39 cases up to that day for a few days. In Beijing, where around a dozen cases have now been discovered in over a week, access to attractions has been restricted and residents have been advised not to leave the city unless necessary; Entry into the capital is also restricted.

What are the reasons for China’s tough decision to firmly opt for the zero-covid approach?

For the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the motivation to follow this approach comes from a mixture of ideological and political reasons and the belief that it is the only way to contain contagion in the world’s most populous country. It was humiliating for the CCP to deal with the perceived stigma of being the authoritarian rulers of a country where the virus was first discovered in late 2019 – a reminder of the SARS outbreak in 2003 when the country’s national strength was much lower was.

After all, it is a 100-year-old party, at the top of the world’s second largest economy, a country on the verge of building its own space station, a party state that lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. The outbreak, which became public knowledge in January 2020, was followed by a flurry of criticism of an attempt by authorities to hide information about it.

After the crisis, however, the opportunity came.

Even as the pandemic spread around the world, China controlled the outbreak within its own territory. As hospitals around the world gasped for oxygen and ventilators, China dismantled the makeshift hospitals it had built to care for patients in Wuhan – the first signs of triumph.

Then came the winner’s tale – the superiority of the Chinese system over western liberal democracies. China’s Covid-19 numbers have been practical: 97,061 confirmed Covid-19 cases as of Oct. 30, 4,636 deaths. The country’s economy also recovered despite a significant slowdown in the third quarter of 2021: the achievements were hailed as a victory for China’s anti-pandemic policy.

While China was quick to eradicate the cluster infections, it also carried out the world’s largest vaccination campaign: By October 23, 76% of the 1.41 billion Chinese population had received the full dose.

One aspect is unclear: how many of those infected in the recent outbreaks were fully vaccinated? Isn’t China opening up because its vaccines aren’t effective?

Nonetheless, China’s success in controlling the spread of Covid-19 is now a cherished moment of political pride for the CCP – it is a victory of its strict “zero Covid” policy versus the “laissez-faire” virus control policy of Western countries .

A continuing security of China’s foreclosure policy is the thousands of students and separated families who were unable to return to China after leaving last year. Case in point are those stuck in India: despite the efforts of the Indian government, China has banned nearly 23,000 Indian students and hundreds of Indians to work here on the grounds that it was a preventative measure to contain the virus.

As the Winter Olympics approach, due to begin February 4 in Beijing and neighboring areas, China’s determination to eradicate any infection appears to be growing stronger.

China’s high vaccination rate should, in principle, make it possible to move to a less disruptive strategy, Julian Evans-Pritchard, chief China economist at Capital Economics, told Reuters on October 28. “Any shift (in the zero-covid policy) seems unlikely until at least after the Winter Olympics in February.”

Virus expert Zhang Wenhong appears to have been rehabilitated after being confronted with the anti-aircraft virus remark because of his “life learning”. Three weeks after the original comment, Zhang wrote another article on China’s Twitter-like Weibo saying, “… but we must steadfastly believe. Our country’s current anti-epidemic strategy suits us best. Only those who wear the shoes know whether the shoes fit. “

Most recently it was heard that Fudan University is no longer pursuing the plagiarism case against him.

The views expressed are personal

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