Shanghai, Beijing manifest China’s dynamic epidemic clearing mandate
Published: May 29, 2022 11:47 PM
Illustration: Chen Xia/Global Times

Illustration: Chen Xia/Global Times

Thanks to the strict enforcement of prevention and control protocols, the coronavirus epidemic in Shanghai and Beijing, two megacities in China, has finally abated, with epidemiologists and health officials from both cities feeling upbeat, announcing over the weekend that they are on the cusp of winning another arduous battle against the virus. 

Though the cost caused by the lockdown in Shanghai and the most stringent restriction measures taken by Beijing is undoubtedly enormous, and is ticking up every hour and minute, many people's lives have been saved, with the death count in Shanghai during this round of Omicron resurgence being limited to less than 600, and Beijing reporting no fatalities.

The combat against the epidemic flare-ups in Beijing and Shanghai is the best manifestation of China's central government's long cherished philosophy that human lives are precious and must be protected at all costs. The combat also annotates why China has pursued the "dynamic zero-COVID" policy, persistently, despite lousy and ruthless naysayers in the West. 

Those opponents' narrative is like this: China's dynamic zero-COVID policy is not sustainable because of the greater contagiousness or high transmissibility of the Omicron variant. Chinese officials are "inhuman" and must be critiqued for deploying disruptive measures that are extracting deep economic costs, and at the same time hurting global industrial supply chains. 

Overly concerned about the economic downturn, the US and some developed countries have thrown in the towel, choosing to "live with" the pandemic. Chinese media describe them vividly as "lying flat," doing nothing at all and let the pandemic run its course. The results are appallingly grisly, with the pandemic killing more than 1 million people in the US. In the UK, the death toll has neared 180,000. 

According to statistics, among the top 20 countries that have the highest pandemic death rate per 100,000 people, 14 are the richest Western countries on this planet. And, more than 90 percent of the people succumbing to the disease were poor, socially disadvantaged, aged or sick with other conditions. By choosing to live with the virus, those governments have done something awful. 

Now, some countries have begun to manage COVID-19 as an endemic disease, which is highly premature and morally irresponsible too. There will be people, mostly the aged and vulnerable, who will die from "endemic COVID." Therefore, the stark choice is before us - to live alongside the virus, or to contain its wild spread and prevent more deadly mutations. 

Omicron is already among the most infectious viruses known to human beings. But epidemiologists now remain worried whether the virus will continue to mutate and evolve to another new variant, say, "Delta-cron" combing the more fatal Delta and the highly infectious Omicron. What makes scientists and health officials scratch their heads is that they have obtained evidence since early 2020 that both natural and vaccine-induced human immunity wane over a period of time. 

The World Health Organization's mantra is the COVID-19 will not be over anywhere in the world until it is over everywhere. The organization is now concerned at the number of countries and regions drastically reducing PCR tests, which seriously "inhibits our ability to see where the virus is." 

Since the Omicron variant was named by the WHO in November last year, the virus has moved at lightning speed by spreading around the world, leading to record peaks in infections in many places. Rendering the variant is less lethal than Alfa and Delta, two previous variants, many governments believe the total economic and societal costs of lockdowns, restrictions on businesses, outweigh the benefits, and they started to remove those restrictions. Meanwhile, the outcome is not beautiful. 

The Biden administration has largely done away with the masking and social distancing protocols since early this year, and the US has witnessed an upsurge in infections. The country has averaged between 50,000 and 110,000 new cases per day since May 1. As a result, more than 26,400 Americans are still being hospitalized due to serious COVID-related illness. 

Another instance of the great peril of "living with" the pandemic is China's Taiwan island, which recorded 94,855 new cases and a single-day high of 126 deaths from the disease on Friday. Of the dead, their ages range from 10 years old to 100, according to data released by local epidemic command center. The authorities on the island had successfully kept the virus out for more than two years, but a couple of months ago, it reversed policy, allowing the pandemic to freely circulate. More people will probably die on the island. 

But for cities like Beijing and Shanghai, they will continue to see to the implementation of a dynamic zero-COVID policy, by doing their utmost to keep the daily rate of infections at a very low level, while keeping vigilant to prevent cluster outbreaks in their communities. China is unlikely to surrender to the virus. The US' and the Western governments' whitewash to let the pandemic run the nature's brutal survival-of-the-fittest law will continue to be opposed by China.

The author is an editor with the Global Times.