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In China, science-based approaches to viruses are ignored

Residents are becoming more and more tired, rebellious and mocking their approach. Experts, meanwhile, are questioning how countries that are proud of cutting-edge technology and scientific innovation can find themselves in a course that is radically different from the rest of the world. Of the world.

In another particularly serious case, Chinese authorities censored a North Korean public health video titled "Understanding Omicron."

The two and a half minute video released by Pyongyang is itself fighting the waves of Covid, but it's not revolutionary. Most Omicron patients present with mild symptoms and only explain that only the most severe cases require hospital treatment.

It is common knowledge in most parts of the world that infection with Omicron usually causes less severe illness than infection with previous variants. However, shifting the focus from the potential severity of the illness goes against the Chinese story, so the video was quickly removed from the Chinese internet.

Also censored was the news that North Korea had lifted the blockade restrictions and was ready to move on.

In contrast, China continues to close its entire community and cities in a few Covid cases. All positive cases and close contacts are sent to government quarantine, but nearby neighborhoods are often locked down for weeks.

Despite the best efforts of Chinese censors, the news has permeated and many Chinese internet users have even commented that hermits are more "scientific" than China.

Of course, there is widespread skepticism in North Korea's claim that North Korea controls Covid. Earlier this month, the World Health Organization said it assumed that the pandemic situation was actually worsening, contrary to North Korea's claim, as North Korea suffered from a shortage of vaccines and medical resources.

But the fact that even North Korea's secrecy dictatorship shares at least internationally recognized information about Covid is incredible to many Chinese social media users. I have. Frankly, "Suddenly we noticed the most pathetic."

Meanwhile, Dandong, a Chinese city bordering North Korea, has been blocked for nearly two months. Authorities only announced mitigation of some measures earlier this week.

In an online video, Chinese healthcare professionals are arranging what looks like a row of machines to monitor the air along the Yalu River, which separates the two countries. Apparently, China has also ordered nearby residents to close their windows-it is afraid that the wind may blow the virus from North Korea.

Return to corner

In the early days of the pandemic, such a public question about the Chinese approach might not have been considered. At that time, China's snap lockdown, mass testing, and rigorous quarantine successfully contained the virus.

The approach was so effective that, in fact, China has repeatedly boasted of its superiority over the West, arguing that Zero Corona should be the model of the world since then. As China's propaganda machines relentlessly remind everyone, China reports just over 5,000 deaths compared to the one million in the United States.

But China's early success may be part of the problem. Chinese leaders feel that they have been cornered by previous rhetoric and cannot change their tack in the light of more contagious varieties like Omicron without losing their face sharply.

So Xi stuck to his vow to "stick firmly" to Zerocovid, and all the officials under him, regardless of what the scientist or anyone else was thinking. , Are being pressured to line up. The goal is to keep Covid cases at zero outside government quarantine facilities, regardless of economic or social costs.

"Voice claiming deviations from the Zero-COVID policy is punished. No one at the top is listening to experts anymore and is honestly humiliating," said the State Health Commission. Said one person concerned. Recent lancet medical journal.

Last weekend, censors subdued social media debates over whether rigorous measures such as the months' blockade in Shanghai would be justified. Did.

This discussion was facilitated by a scientific study examining the severity of Covid-19 in recent cases in the city. Of the cohort of more than 33,000 (mostly vaccinated) Covid-19 patients who were relatively healthy and did not show severe symptoms on admission, only 22, or 0.065%, developed severe illness.

According to the study, all 22 of these were over 60 years old, had underlying health or weakened immunity, and most were not completely vaccinated. Prevention (CDC) publications.

This rate questioned whether Covid-19's measures were commensurate with the health risks of the general public, but by Monday morning some comments on social media had been removed. It seems that it was done. A few days later, the paper itself became unavailable on the main page of the Chinese CDC website, and the original link failed. Chinese health officials did not respond to CNN's request for comment on this issue.

"Why do we get nucleic acid tests after daily nucleic acid tests at the incidence of such serious illnesses? After all, what is it for? A Weibo user said the findings and seems to refer to Shanghai's strict Covid-19 test requirements, which continue after the city-wide blockade has been relaxed.

Meanwhile, China is spending a staggering amount of cash to keep its ideology alive.

For example, China is estimated to have built hundreds of thousands of semi-permanent Covid test booths, and citizens of all major cities are at least once every 72 hours to enter public places. You need to take the Covid test. A daily mass test in Beijing will cost at least US $ 10 million, according to CNN's calculations.

The Zero-COVID policy is "not cost-effective, and we all know it," another health official told Lancet.

Hygiene Theater

People aren't the only ones constantly being tested. There are viral videos of stray cats, dogs, mail, seafood, sewage, and newborns. I also tested it.

This is an ongoing practice, despite the fact that the international health authorities question the science behind it.

"The risk of surface infections is theoretical at best and cannot even be measured at this time," said Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota Infectious Diseases Research Policy Center.

"And it really fits the picture of what we call a hygiene theater, so doing this kind of test does more to protect the individual. Seems to be. "He said.

"It's useless, meaningless, and distracting."

In China, only 61% of the elderly population is fully vaccinated with booster vaccines, providing health resources. Given the shortage, we continue to insist that Zero Corona is the only way to save people's lives. Rural areas.

However, given these realities, many experts prefer to spend resources on improving immunization rates rather than building costly inspection sites and quarantine facilities. I am saying.

They are also wondering why China has not yet approved a foreign mRNA vaccine. It has proven to be more effective against Omicron than the inactivated vaccines manufactured and used in China. (Chinese homemade mRNA vaccine is still in clinical trials).

The answer, which many doubt, is also about politics, not science.

The Zero-COVID policy "has become a measure of merit and legitimacy (of the Communist Party), as well as economic growth statistics. It can have real consequences for the Chinese people and therefore dominate. Proof of the right to do. "The Atlantic Council said in a recent report.

A critical moment

Zero Corona is really a" sanitary theater " If so, the big question is how long Beijing can continue the performance.

“We are in a critical moment,” said Yanzhong Huang, Senior Fellow of Global Health, Council on Foreign Relations. "Chinese leaders need to decide whether to continue this very costly strategy with diminishing returns."

For now, they are keen to maintain the course. Looks like it is. In particular, ahead of the Communist Party Congress this fall, when Xi is expected to move into an almost unprecedented third phase.

However, citizens have lost patience.

Shanghai ended its brutal two-month blockade at the beginning of June, but anger is evident as many communities have reintroduced containment measures.

One viral video (which was subsequently removed from Chinese social media) captured a recent protest at a compound in Shanghai.

This is crowded along the fence, demanding release, and stopping sending Covid-negative residents to the quarantine facility just because they live in a building near the Covid-positive cases. Indicates that you are asking for.

One of them (who, through a speaker, says "we are illegally imprisoned") was immediately taken away by the authorities.

While being pushed into a police car, he puts his hand in prayer position and says "Thank you" to the indignation crowd. Among them are "freedom, democracy, equality, and the rule of law" -formally part of the country's "core socialist values".

One of the residents stabs his middle finger into a Covid Rule Enforcer in a hazmat suit.

This is a sign of brave rebellion that resonates with many who are anxious for a change in China's Zero-COVID policy.