China in lockdown again. The commercial capital of China, Shanghai, has been locked for the last one month and citizens continue to struggle for basic facilities because the government is adamant on following the zero Covid cases strategy.
This is the second major China in lockdown since the start of the pandemic from Wuhan. This wave has kept China in lockdown due to the Omicron variant which is highly transmissible and capable of evading immunity. On Saturday Shanghai reported 215 covid cases and there were 3760 locally transmitted asymptomatic covid cases also. While the rest of the world has been trying to learn to live with Covid 19, the Chinese government has adopted the Zero Covid strategy.
Zero covid strategy
According to the International Journal of Health Policy and Management “ The goal of the zero Covid strategy is to reduce virus transmission to near zero leaves and ultimately eliminate the virus within a specified geographic region.”
The residents of Shanghai have been confined to their homes for the last one month. People are being mass tested and sent to quarantine centers. Elderly people have been at the receiving end of the most inconvenience. Videos have emerged where people are seen being forced to take tests.
China has been following the zero covid strategy for the last two years and it has been largely successful in avoiding major Covid waves. China has reported only 4600 deaths since the pandemic began whereas in the United States close to one million people have died because of Covid but everything has not been hunky-dory. Shanghai residents have been complaining about the lack of food and medical facilities. Chinese platform Weibo is full of videos where people could be seen criticizing the zero covid strategy and stringent lockdown.
Why is China’s zero Covid strategy failing?
Omicron is far more transmissible than previous variants but is also less severe. There are a lot of asymptomatic cases which makes it hard to track them. Chinese vaccines have come under the radar of scientists, and many have raised questions about their efficiency. Even after the wide coverage of vaccination, people continue to die. China must work on its vaccine policy to save its population.
People are tired of pandemic and this frustration has led them to ignore the precautionary measures. Pandemic has taken a huge psychological toll on people. Trips are being planned to meet the loved ones and this offers the virus the opportunity to spread in new territories.
Should governments follow the Zero covid strategy at this stage of the pandemic?
Top Chinese scientist Zeng Guang has said that Beijing’s strategy against Covid 19 can not “remain unchanged forever.” He is the former Chief scientist of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention. He commended the way western countries have taken the path to live with viruses.
China finds itself in a very precarious situation. Chinese people don’t have natural immunity against the virus and vaccine induced immunity doesn’t seem as effective as natural immunity.
Chinese government championed its zero covid strategy and made a political case out of its pandemic handling. It has left the government in a very tight spot where it can not go back on its zero covid strategy and continue to suffer because the restrictions are taking a heavy toll on the economy.
Countries like Australia and New Zealand had also adopted the zero Covid strategy as their initial response, eventually they moved away from it. Countries can’t afford to cut off themselves for a long time because it has economic consequences.
It is time for China to reconsider their zero covid policy. When the rest of the world is opening up and learning to live with the virus, China can not afford to isolate itself because for a major economy like China it may have repercussions. At this stage of the pandemic gradual opening up and strengthening health care are the most sensible ways to fight the pandemic.
Edited by : Aaradhana Singh