China sticks with zero Covid-19 approach, leaving borders closed for now

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Dr Joseph Tsang, chairman of the Hong Kong Medical Association’s communicable diseases committee, said it was not necessary for China to follow the approach to the pandemic of some Western countries.

Dr Joseph Tsang Kay-yan, chairman of the Hong Kong Medical Association’s communicable diseases committee, said total elimination of the virus was highly difficult to achieve and if mainland China stuck to its zero-tolerance approach to Covid-19, the reopening of the border with Hong Kong would be further delayed.

In a strongly worded article on the website of the government-affiliated think tank China Health Economics Association on Thursday, former Chinese health minister Gao Qiang rejected the laissez-faire approach to the pandemic, blasting the countries who are following it for “recklessly removing or relaxing epidemic control measures”.“Is it feasible to ‘coexist with the virus’? The author believes that it is definitely not feasible,” wrote Gao, who was health minister from 2005-2007.

Some of Gao’s remarks also appeared to take aim at the respected epidemiologist Zhang, who just a few days earlier had said on Chinese social media that most experts around the world believed Covid-19 would not go away soon and countries would be forced to “study how to coexist with this virus”.Gao instead called for a “total elimination” of the virus, through a combination of mass vaccination and strict control measures, especially at the country’s borders.

China’s strategy is also a consequence of its fragile public health infrastructure. There are just 3.43 intensive care unit beds per 100,000 people, according to survey data from the Chinese Society of Critical Care Medicine. This compares to 34.2 ICU beds per 100,000 people in the US, as outlined in a paper by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information in Maryland.

Gao rejected the view of many experts who now say the disease will soon become endemic – seasonal and inevitable, like a flu. Instead, he characterised the pandemic as a “battle between humanity and the virus” and said the goal should remain to “eliminate” Covid-19.People’s Daily, “Surprisingly, some of our experts also talked about the amazing power of the Delta strain, suggesting that the country consider the strategy of ‘long-term coexistence with the virus’ and ‘learn to coexist with the virus’,” Gao wrote.

 

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