Three years into the COVID pandemic, we still cannot see light at the end of the tunnel.
The persistent pandemic has not only taken a heavy toll on economy and social life, but has also exhausted people. There has been a rising public outcry over the restrictions. Many, including some epidemiologists, argue that the COVID variants are becoming less potent, so it is time to drop the dynamic clearing strategy that China has been sticking to.
The central authorities have reiterated their adherence to the policy, citing concerns for the vulnerable and the possibility of medical system overcapacity.
The approach has proved effective in the past three years. As the world’s most populous country, China has recorded the lowest infection and death rates and the Chinese economy is doing okay.
On the basis of the ninth edition of the country’s COVID-19 control protocols, 20 newly released measures were announced Friday, optimizing COVID-19 response in areas including the management and control of those with risk of potential infection, medical services and vaccination, among others, according to Chang Jile, deputy head of the disease prevention and control bureau under the National Health Commission (NHC).
Lei Haichao, deputy head of the NHC, added that these measures are aimed at effectively containing the virus, while minimizing its impact on economic and social development and public services crucial to people’s lives.
According to Lei, the 20 measures can help divert limited resources to the people and areas with higher risks of virus transmission. By doing so, outbreaks can be contained as quickly as possible with minimum expense.
At Friday’s press conference, NHC spokesperson Mi Feng underscored the necessity of guarding against the spread and proliferation of the epidemic, as well as large-scale resurgences.
There is consensus that measures need be taken to accurately identify infections and rapidly curb transmissions. What previously caused public discontent were unnecessary restrictions randomly imposed by local authorities and grassroots officials. Such restrictions included mandatory isolation and deportation of travelers from low-risk areas, extending the areas of quarantine, and even lockdown in areas with few or no infections.
These ran counter to a series of guidelines the State Council published in June that forbids anyone to use the excuse of COVID to put extra restrictions on the freedom of people.
Some grassroots officials ordered that the doors of households in quarantine, many of which had no infections, be locked from the outside. Earlier this month in Lanzhou, the capital city of Gansu Province, a gas-poisoned boy died after he failed to get timely treatment because of multiple restrictions imposed on his housing compound. The gate guards requested a green QR-code for an exit permission but no nucleic acid tests were available in that compound in the previous week.
The latest measures, announced Friday, again have shown the Chinese authorities’ resolution to fight the pandemic while making necessary policy adjustments to changing circumstances and answering to people’s needs.
Local authorities need to improve their anti-pandemic measures and minimize their impact on the economy and on social life following the guidelines of the Central Government.
In Shenzhen for example, when the number of infection cases falls to single digits, it’s reasonable to reduce the frequency of citywide nucleic acid testing to once or twice a week instead of doing it daily. Certainly, those in special trades, such as taxi drivers and delivery personnel, will be tested more frequently.
Shenzhen also needs to take into consideration the expats living in the city who don’t have a Chinese ID card, when carrying out certain anti-COVID measures.
(The author is an English tutor and freelance writer)