How China’s zero COVID policy works without compromising economic and social development
In the spring of 2022, China is witnessing a new wave of the COVID-19 epidemic. Jilin, one of the hardest-hit provinces, is currently seeing four-digit daily growth in the number of new infections.
The country has countered the epidemic through its dynamic zero COVID policy. Besides treating patients, mass nucleic acid testing was done to detect hidden infections as early as possible. On the other hand, strict travel restrictions have been put in place to reduce the spread of the virus.
The aforementioned measures have given rise to another round of claims by some Western countries that China is undermining its economic and social development in the name of epidemic control. However, this is largely a misunderstanding of politics.
At a recent meeting, Chinese leaders called for efforts to “achieve the best results in epidemic control with minimum costs and minimize the epidemic’s impact on economic and social development.” These words sum up well the intentions of the policy.
“Instead of curing diseases, the best doctors prevent them from happening in the first place.” This philosophy was embodied in the Huang Di Nei Jing, an ancient Chinese medical classic. The Dynamic Zero-COVID Policy reflects the same philosophy, as it contains domestic virus outbreaks through timely actions before the virus spirals out of control and causes greater damage to people’s lives.
The effectiveness of the policy has been tested during China’s containment of previous outbreaks. Last November, the city of Dalian, in Liaoning province (northeast China), was hit by a new wave of the epidemic. Thanks to all the efforts of local health authorities, the epidemic that affected businesses, residential areas and educational institutions was brought under control in about a month.
Due to a timely lockdown, business operations and people’s daily activities were quickly resumed without difficulties. This illustrates how the rapid implementation of the policy helps to contain the virus without affecting society and the economy in a major way. For businesses actually affected by the outbreak and the restrictions, policies to mitigate their financial stress have been put in place in a timely manner.
Policy-compliant measures have also limited the geographic spread of the virus. In the current wave of the epidemic, strict restrictions on movement and movement have been put in place in Jilin province to contain the virus. As of March 18, the cities of Jilin and Changchun accounted for about 98% of all reported infections in the province. Additionally, Heilongjiang and Liaoning provinces, adjacent to Jilin, are seeing far fewer new cases, further proving the effectiveness of travel restrictions.
With such measures in place, hard-hit regions can devote all their efforts to fighting the virus, while economic activities in areas not affected or less affected by the epidemic can continue with the necessary precautions. In addition, less affected regions can spare personnel and resources to regions that need them. For example, 265 medical personnel and more than 14 tons of medical resources from Shaanxi Province, where the epidemic is under control, arrived in Jilin on March 20 to help with control efforts.
Apart from these considerations, the main reason why China adopts this policy is the principle of putting people and human life above everything else.
For the Chinese government, not a single life is sacrificed in the fight against the virus. This is why China’s zero COVID policy provides for early detection of cases; preventing massive infections, serious illnesses and deaths; and avoid overburdening medical resources to better meet people’s daily medical needs.
The more infectious variant of Omicron poses a great challenge to China’s epidemic control. As the eminent Chinese epidemiologist Liang Wannian warned, “if there is a large absolute number of infected people, the number of severe cases and deaths in the general population will be high, which may still cause great damage”. Under such circumstances, the zero COVID policy is essential for the country to detect and cure patients as early as possible.
In more than two years of fighting the epidemic, China has summed up its experience and formulated anti-epidemic policies suited to its own situation. These policies, including the Dynamic Zero COVID Policy, should continue to guide China’s efforts to contain the outbreak until the battle against the virus is won.