Explainer: How China's zero-COVID policy works without compromising economic, social development-Xinhua

Explainer: How China's zero-COVID policy works without compromising economic, social development

Source: Xinhua

Editor: huaxia

2022-03-23 17:08:18

BEIJING, March 23 (Xinhua) -- In the spring of 2022, China is witnessing another wave of the COVID-19 epidemic. Jilin, one of the hardest-hit provinces, is currently still seeing four-digit daily growth in the number of new infections.

The country countered the outbreak with its dynamic zero-COVID policy. Apart from treating the patients, mass nucleic acid tests were carried out to detect hidden infections as early as possible. On the other hand, tight restrictions on traveling were implemented to cut the spread of the virus.

The aforementioned measures gave rise to another string of claims from some Western countries that China is compromising its economic and social development for the sake of epidemic control. However, this is largely a misunderstanding of the policy.

At a recent meeting, Chinese leadership called for efforts to "achieve the best results in epidemic control with minimum costs, and minimizing the epidemic's impact on the economic and social development." These words are an apt summary of the policy's intentions.

"Instead of curing illnesses, the best doctors prevent them from happening in the first place." This philosophy was carried in Huang Di Nei Jing, an ancient Chinese classic on medicine. The dynamic zero-COVID policy reflects the same philosophy, as it contains domestic virus flare-ups through timely actions before the virus becomes uncontainable and causes greater damage to people's lives.

The policy's effectiveness has been tested in China's containment of earlier outbreaks. Last November, the city of Dalian in northeast China's Liaoning Province was hit by a new wave of the epidemic. With all-out efforts from local health authorities, the epidemic that affected enterprises, residential areas and educational institutions was brought under control in about a month's time.

Due to timely containment, business operations and people's daily activities quickly resumed without difficulties. This exemplifies how swift implementation of the policy helps to contain the virus without majorly affecting the society and economy. For enterprises that were indeed affected by the epidemic and restrictions, policies to ease their financial stress were put in place in a timely manner.

Measures in accordance with policy also limited the geographical spread of the virus. In the current wave of epidemic, strict restrictions on traveling and commuting were implemented in Jilin Province to contain the virus. As of March 18, the cities of Jilin and Changchun account for about 98 percent of all infections the province reported. Also, the provinces of Heilongjiang and Liaoning, adjacent to Jilin, are seeing much fewer new cases, further proving the effectiveness of travel restrictions.

With such measures in place, hard-hit regions can devote all their efforts to fighting the virus, while economic activities in areas unaffected or less affected by the epidemic can proceed with necessary precautions. Moreover, less-affected regions can spare personnel and resources to regions in need. For example, 265 medical personnel and over 14 tonnes of medical resources from Shaanxi Province, where the epidemic is under control, arrived on March 20 in Jilin to help with the control efforts.

Apart from these considerations, the biggest reason for China to adopt the policy is the principle of putting the people and human life above anything else.

For the Chinese government, not a single life is expendable in the fight against the virus. This is why China's zero-COVID policy features timely detection of cases; preventing mass infections, severe illness and deaths; and avoiding straining medical resources to better meet people's daily medical needs.

The more infectious Omicron variant poses a great challenge to China's epidemic control. As leading Chinese epidemiologist Liang Wannian has warned, "If there is a large absolute number of people infected, the number of severe cases and deaths in the population as a whole will be high, which can still inflict great harm." Under such circumstances, the zero-COVID policy is essential for the country to detect and cure patients as early as possible.

In more than two years of fighting against the epidemic, China has summarized its experience and formulated anti-epidemic policies that suit its own situation. These policies, dynamic zero-COVID policy included, are expected to continue guiding China's efforts in containing the epidemic until the battle against the virus is won.