Following a record daily high of COVID-19 cases, China has enacted a new round of lockdowns. On Wednesday, November 23, mainland China recorded over 31,000 COVID-19 cases, according to state media. Though still lower than the UK and the US, that is an increase from the previous record high of 28,000 set in April.
Many people are perplexed as to why China continues to enforce its expensive and stringent “zero-COVID” public health policy in the face of this recent spike.
Despite the fact that the pandemic was initially discovered in China, compared to many other nations, they have done reasonably well against COVID-19, with much lower rates of infection than most of Europe and North America.
Its alleged “zero COVID” policy has been credited with some of this accomplishment. This approach aims to closely monitor the population by contact tracing, surveillance, and mass testing before ruthlessly eradicating any outbreaks of infection through lockdowns, quarantine, and isolation.
This runs counter to the “living with COVID-19 strategy” that is now being used in many parts of the world. This policy’s guiding principle is that the illness is transitioning from a pandemic to an endemic stage and probably won’t ever be completely eradicated. Lockdowns and other extreme measures like those we saw in 2020 are still utilized to closely monitor and manage the virus, but they are only used as a last resort.
Until recently, it was plausible to claim that China’s zero COVID policy was effective because the country’s case counts remained low in comparison to the rest of the globe. However, with instances increasing, it is more difficult to maintain that case, and the strategy is beginning to expose its flaws.
The policy, according to US critics, is dictatorial and has violated human rights. Numerous people in China have allegedly been forcibly quarantined in metal boxes in a determined effort to contain illnesses. Others have been informed that they must have electronic monitoring tags as part of the local effort to combat COVID-19.
There are areas of unrest in China as a result of this strict population control. At the largest iPhone plant in the world, located in Zhengzhou, protests have broken out this week in a rare instance of public discontent. Workers are seen marching while being confronted by riot police and people wearing hazardous suits in videos of the event that have been shared on social media.
It’s less clear why China is adamantly standing its ground despite the growing problems. Although some have claimed that the plan is motivated by some legitimate public health concerns, it is increasingly clear that the issue is mostly political in nature.
S&P Global Market Intelligence analysts and economists made a prediction earlier this year that China wouldn’t alter its position on COVID-19 control until the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party chose its new leader. By the time this significant political occasion came to an end on October 22, Xi Jinping had won the Congress and secured a third term as China’s president.
Now that he has cemented his position of power, there may be some confusion over public health policy, though S&P Global Market Intelligence thinks it’s doubtful that there will be any significant changes before everything has stabilized in 2023.