While some countries like the US resumed international travel, new COVID-19 cases spiked in countries like Germany and France as global infections surpassed 250 million. When more Western countries reopen their borders, China has to continue adhering to its zero-tolerance policy, remaining as a must-have strategy to contain the virus at the lowest cost, Chinese senior epidemiologists warned. “Infections in winter will increase given the experience last winter as people spend more time indoors and coronavirus-infected objects outdoors live longer in winter which increases the risk of being infected through indirect physical contact,” Wang Guangfa, a respiratory expert at Peking University First Hospital, told the Global Times on Tuesday.Vaccination rates in the US and main European countries have reached a relatively high level, that’s why those countries have chosen to reopen, he said, noting that the problem is the Delta variant can achieve an ultrafast spread and there have been relatively high rates of breakthrough infections after vaccination.
A senior official from the top health authority also noted recently that China has no intention of changing its current anti-epidemic approach given repeated outbreaks in neighboring countries and across the world. Wu Liangyou, a deputy director from the NHC disease control bureau, said on Saturday that “we will continue to adhere to strict COVID-19 controls and build a solid barrier against imported cases and local transmissions,” when he was asked about whether China considered abandoning its zero-tolerance policy. The resurgence of COVID-19 cases in China now is still sporadic, although they appeared in about 20 provincial-level regions, Wang noted. “Situations will be much worse in China if the epidemic reaches the same level as Western countries. In China, a large population and limited medical resources leave China no choice but to insist on a zero-tolerance policy,” he said. When asked about when it would be best to lift the restrictions, the expert close to the NHC simply said “not now.” “The regular anti-epidemic measures help us maintain normal social and economic functions, but China has not reached the conditions for lifting those measures or opening its borders,” he said.
Zeng Guang, former chief epidemiologist of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, was quoted as saying in a report by Chinese financial news outlet Caixin on Tuesday that there are several other aspects to be considered when governments decide to reopen the borders. Besides the public health perspective, there is also economic development, social stability and geopolitical relations, he said. “Countries like the UK, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand reopened their borders, but did so because local governments face the pressure of economic growth and unemployment, as well as the rivalry of different political parties,” Zeng said. He also noted that those countries are not absolutely sure about the outcome, and they may return to a lockdown one day.
Source: Chen Qingqing and Yan Yuzhu China
Expat Focus China