EXPLAINER: Zero-COVID Policy a.k.a. China’s ‘Magic Weapon’

By Danielle Chua

The ‘magic weapon’. Strict lockdowns. Restricted contact. All safe from the virus but wait, there is more. 


The policy basics

It is highly evident that the COVID-19 pandemic has been a large catastrophe in various sectors like health, education, economy, and so forth. The United Nations (UN) made it clear that this is not just a plain health plight, but also a crisis deeply rooted from humanity and equality. 

With such global impact and willpower to combat the virus, Juul et al. (2020) articulated in their journal article entitled ‘Interventions for treatment of COVID-19: a protocol for a living systematic review with network meta-analysis including individual patient data (The LIVING Project)’ that there has been a reliance in medical healthcare, quarantine implementations, and infection-control precautions.

Naming this the ‘magic weapon’ coined by the China’s National Health Commission Deputy Head Li Bin, China’s Zero-COVID Policy mainly aims to attain near-zero or even the complete termination of COVID-19 cases in the country. This approach conveys a maximum clampdown of daily activities and interactions to fully control the virus transmission (Zhen, Li, & Cheng, 2022). 


What does the policy look like?

To give a quick gist under the said policy, people in China have been experiencing roadblocks, travel restrictions, stern lockdowns, mass testings specifically in Beijing and Shanghai, mandatory quarantines, public transportation postponement, and closure of establishments like schools and unnecessary establishments (Song, 2022). 

Take a look at the Zero-COVID Policy in China to weigh such policy either on its good or bad side.


Two sides of the policy 

“A suppression-only strategy is not a sustainable way to exit the pandemic for any country,” the World Health Organization (WHO) emergencies chief Dr. Michael Ryan emphasized China's stringent pandemic response policy. 

Despite the collective calls for a more effective and sustainable scheme, Chinese President Xi Jinping continues to reiterate the Zero-COVID policy. 

It also slowed down the economy, given that most of the business establishments and schools have been mandatorily shut down. Yuan (2022) emphasized its adversity because of China’s reported resource shortage and economic disruption. 

Now going to statistical data in China’s Zero-COVID policy, the industrial production declined by 2.9 per cent (Creery & Hale, 2022). What makes it aggravating is that this factor is expected to increase after the initial COVID-19 economic shock, way back 2020. 

While it is entirely true that it has negatively stricken the country’s overall wellbeing and economy, the Zero-COVID approach has also wrecked the conditions of the Chinese people. 

According to Agence France-Presse in an online article entitled ‘As virus cases surge, can China’s zero-COVID strategy hold?’ (2022), this has resulted in citizens' immense resentment towards the policy, deficient access to necessities like food and water, limited medical services, and grounded migrant workers. 

On the other hand, this just becomes another uncontrollable nightmare for them. Any evident objection is not welcomed in Chinese officials (The Manila Times, 2022) which somehow limits the people to fully express their insights about the said policy.

With the maximization of strict measures and virus control, another side to put focus is how the Zero-COVID policy significantly brought light to China and its people. 

In line with Song (2022) in a BBC online article entitled ‘China: Why is the WHO concerned about its zero-Covid strategy?’, the country entirely maintained a small number of mortalities during the COVID-19 pandemic emergence. 

Even in the presence of pandemic uncertainties and economic collapses, Xinhua (2022) reported that the country continuously persists to be a ‘hotspot’ for international investors, most especially those who pursue economic opportunities in this struggling time. 


REFERENCES

[1] Associated Press. (2022, May 18). WHO says Omicron makes China’s ‘zero-Covid’ policy unsustainable | Associated Press. BusinessMirror. https://businessmirror.com.ph/2022/05/18/who-says-omicron-makes-chinas-zero-covid-policy-unsustainable/

[2] Agence France-Presse. (2022, March 15). As virus cases surge, can China’s zero-COVID strategy hold? 

[3] INQUIRER.Net. https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1568054/as-virus-cases-surge-can-chinas-zero-covid-strategy-hold#ixzz7Swz7Sht1

[4] Agence France-Presse. (2022, May 11). WHO says China’s zero-COVID strategy unsustainable. 

[5] INQUIRER.Net. https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1596168/who-says-chinas-zero-covid-strategy-unsustainable

[6] Creery, J., & Hale, T. (2022, May 16). China’s economic activity plummets as Covid lockdowns hit growth. Financial Times. 

[7] Huang, Y. (2022, May 12). China’s Zero-Covid Policy Won’t Eliminate the Virus. Barron’s. https://www.barrons.com/articles/chinas-zero-covid-policy-wont-eliminate-the-virus-51652370282

[8] Juul, S., Nielsen, N., Bentzer, P., Veroniki, A. A., Thabane, L., Linder, A., Klingenberg, S., Gluud, C., & Jakobsen, J. C. (2020). Interventions for treatment of COVID-19: a protocol for a living systematic review with network meta-analysis including individual patient data (The LIVING Project). Systematic Reviews, 9(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13643-020-01371-0

[9] Song, W. (2022, May 17). China: Why is the WHO concerned about its zero-Covid strategy? BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/59882774

[10] The Manila Times. (2022, May 13). China standing by zero-Covid policy. https://www.manilatimes.net/2022/05/13/opinion/editorial/china-standing-by-zero-covid-policy/1843500

[11] United Nations. (n.d.). UN Response to COVID-19. https://www.un.org/en/coronavirus/UN-response

[12] Xinhua. (2022, May 3). China’s dynamic zero-COVID policy benefits the world. Manila Bulletin. https://mb.com.ph/2022/05/03/chinas-dynamic-zero-covid-policy-benefits-the-world/

[13] Yuan, S. (2022). Zero COVID in China: what next? The Lancet, 399(10338), 1856–1857. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0140-6736(22)00873-x

[14] Zhan, Z., Li, J., & Cheng, Z. J. (2022). Zero-Covid Strategy: What’s Next? International Journal of Health Policy and Management. https://doi.org/10.34172/ijhpm.2022.6757





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