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Friday, January 27, 2023

China Abandons Its zero-Covid Policy, Fears of Dangerous Infections Rise

The authorities have fought for nearly three years to keep COVID out of the country

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CHINA: As it was being winched away by a crane in the middle of the night, the portable PCR testing booth was seen on camera hanging in the air above a pitch-black Beijing street.

The photograph, which was the ideal representation of the startlingly quick conclusion to a harsh era, went widely over Chinese social media.

The Chinese government quickly abandoned its renowned “zero-COVID” policy in the face of the largest nationwide demonstrations since the brutal crackdown on protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Without a recent negative test, many in Beijing were ready to enter retail centres or ride public transportation. They were informed they could quarantine at home rather than at a government facility in other places, or they were allowed to attend parks and supermarkets without checks if they had come into contact with a case.

Despite the catastrophic costs to individuals and the awful harm to the national economy, the authorities have fought for nearly three years to keep COVID out of the country.

They have done this by utilising every technological tool, public mobilization, and repressive measure at their disposal.

China became a vigilant nation, always on the lookout for the virus that was approaching its shores.

China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, Xi Jinping, was an advocate of this isolationist strategy.

Vice Premier and COVID chief Sun Chunlan declared last week that China’s healthcare system had “successfully passed the test” of COVID-19 and that the country was now in a “new scenario.”

The policy shift necessitated a fresh message after years of teaching its residents that the only way to protect themselves from COVID was to completely avoid it.

Beijing has chosen to portray the prevalent Omicron variety as a less deadly form of the primary illness.

Omicron is less hazardous than the Delta type, which was previously more prevalent, according to Xi, who also told visiting European Council president Charles Michel that China could consider loosening restrictions.

Epidemiologists caution that Beijing’s approach does not take into account research on Omicron’s effects and that the nation is unprepared for a potential wave of lethal Covid infections.

Omicron has proven to be less lethal as it travelled over nations like Britain, but by the time it had taken over, 95% of the population in the UK had some type of antibody from vaccinations or prior infections, according to Bauld.

Only 40% of those over 80 in China have had booster doses, which is extremely low for the most susceptible population—vulnerable seniors. Almost nobody has innate defences against prior illnesses.

Even before the pandemic, China’s healthcare system was shaky and uneven, and years of fighting COVID have further weakened it.

At the onset of the pandemic in 2020, the sickness surged across the city of Wuhan, overwhelming doctors and hospitals. If the virus spreads to an unprotected population, the sad scenes of those early days could be reenacted.

An outbreak in the spring in Hong Kong, which has a much better healthcare system, provides a bleak preview of what China can experience if it handles opening up poorly.

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