Chinese experts back ‘zero Covid’ policy despite surge

Beijing, Mar 14 (EFE).- Even as some parts of China are witnessing their highest number of Covid-19 infections since 2020, influential epidemiologist Zhan Wenhong has insisted that the government’s “zero-Covid” policy should not be questioned.

State media outlet Global Times on Monday quoted Zhang’s post on Chinese social media platform Weibo – where the expert’s account has four million experts – as saying that China should use the period as an “opportunity to lay out anti-epidemic strategies that are complete, sustainable and with more wisdom.”

“It is not time for China to lie flat and debate over zero-Covid and coexistence (with the disease),” he said.

Zhang admitted that the Asian country was facing its “most difficult period” of the pandemic, as daily new cases had jumped from 119 to 3,122 within just 11 days, with the latter figure registered on Mar. 12.

On the other hand, he stressed that virologists agreed that the virulence of the virus had diminished and that “people with normal immunity and those who have accepted booster shots, no matter what kind of vaccines, will be fine.”

The expert warned against opening up China’s borders, which have so far remained practically closed for non-residents, with a minimum 14-day quarantine in place for all travelers.

A quick reopening could lead to new cases surging “in a short time,” medical infrastructure getting overburdened and may “cause irreparable damages,” Zhang said.

Wang Guangfa, a respiratory system specialist who was among the first to visit Wuhan during the first-ever Covid outbreak in January 2020, said over the weekend that the Omicron variant – which is predominant in the recent outbreaks in China – has made it difficult to detect infections, with more asymptomatic cases.

The Global Times cited Wang as saying that the relatively low vaccination rate among the elderly continued to be one of the biggest problems

He highlighted the flexibility of the zero-Covid policy citing the example of authorities recently approving the use of rapid-antigen tests for the first time in order to try and contain the spread of Omicron.

Wang expressed hope that infections would “significantly” reduce in two weeks and the target of zero fresh cases would be reached within 28 days.

Cities such as the southern Shenzhen and northeastern Changchun have been put under partial or total lockdowns due to a surge in infections.

Tech giant Foxconn, the largest iPhone assembler in the world, said on Monday that it had suspended operations in factories situated in Shenzhen due to the one-week lockdown announced by authorities, although stressing that production line adjustments would minimize potential impact.

In recent weeks, some voices in China have favored possible adjustments to the zero-Covid policy, which results in restrictions on movement and mass PCR-testing wherever a coronavirus case is detected.

Epidemiologist Zeng Guang, the former chief of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, had recently said that restrictions would not “last forever,” and that Beijing would unveil a roadmap for “coexisting with the virus” at an appropriate time.

Chinese authorities have so far administered over 3.18 billion doses of anti-Covid vaccines, more than enough to ensure minimum two doses for its entire population of over 1.4 billion.

According to official data, 116,902 Covid infections have been registered in the country so far, including 4,636 deaths, while 103,755 people have recovered from the disease. EFE


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