China lacks a Covid exit strategy as it strives to achieve zero infections

China’s commitment to achieving zero Covid-19 cases means that most of its citizens may be isolated from the outside world by the end of the year, thereby delaying the full return to normality of the world’s second largest economy.

Analysts said that Beijing may even have to wait until the middle of 2022 to reopen to tourists, although it is expected that nearly 80% of its population will be immunized by the end of this year.

“In China, once an institution is built, it is difficult to dismantle,” said Xi Chen, an associate professor at Yale University’s School of Public Health. “The zero tolerance strategy has worked for a long time, so it is difficult to switch to an open strategy.”

Zero tolerance policy helps Restore economic growth In the first few months of the pandemic, in China and many other East Asian countries. But analysts warn that if the government fails to come up with a clear exit strategy, the strategy may become a burden.

The Economist Intelligence Unit wrote in a recent report that despite some setbacks, European and North American countries that accept low daily cases and have begun to lift travel restrictions are expected to promote the global economy to recover from the virus.

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, due to China’s low dependence on cross-border capital inflows and external talents, and a strong export industry, China is in a better position than most countries in maintaining a zero-new crown virus strategy.

Analysts said that China needs to resume international travel if the economy is to reach its full potential. This necessity will only become more important as Beijing prepares to host the Winter Olympics in February.

Chen of Yale University said: “This event will be more challenging than Tokyo, because it is the winter when the virus is more likely to spread.” Tokyo Olympics Start on Friday.

Residents watch community workers deliver daily necessities in Ruili City, Yunnan Province, southwestern China © AP

Chinese leaders are beginning to talk more frequently about the need to exempt passports to allow international travel. However, due to the issue of mutual recognition, Beijing has signed few agreements with other countries. Each other’s vaccine.

Although the mRNA vaccines developed by BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna are approximately 95% effective, Beijing has not yet approved any non-Chinese vaccines.

This ratio is significantly higher than that of China’s leading inactivated virus vaccines produced by Sinopharm and the private company Konovak, and Chinese officials occasionally mention these vaccines. recognition.

In Europe or North America, neither of these two Chinese jabs have received regulatory approval.

China maintains strict requirements For travelers entering the country, this includes mandatory swab testing and isolation in state-approved hotels for at least two weeks.

Even so, Beijing has repeatedly emphasized the need to be vigilant about loopholes in its pandemic defense.Although local governments are forced not to relax restrictions Fast climb immunity.

After China announced last week that it had reached 1.4 billion doses of vaccinations—meaning about half of the population had been vaccinated—some small cities began to restrict access to hospitals, train stations, and supermarkets for unvaccinated residents.

New infection groups, no matter how small, will be completely blocked.Ruili City, Yunnan Province, Southwest Border of China With Myanmar, This month ordered the fourth round of restrictions after the discovery of symptomatic cases.

China on Tuesday reported its highest daily number of new cases since January, at 65, partly due to the Yunnan cluster. The local government accused the illegal border crossing and vowed to crack down on smugglers.

According to local media reports, local authorities have also reinforced a 500-kilometer-long barbed wire border fence in Ruili, which was erected after the outbreak in early September.

Last month, there were more than 150 infections In south chinaAccording to local health authorities, some viruses with Delta variants are related to people who have recently entered the country.

In response, Guangzhou, the provincial capital, launched an “international health station” or a specially built quarantine hotel with 5,000 rooms and high-tech health monitoring equipment.

Li Bin, deputy director of the National Health Commission of China, said that the arrival of the delta variants in Guangdong and Yunnan reminds us that the work of preventing the virus from reappearing “cannot be relaxed for a moment.”

“All the epidemics are caused by imported cases, so our main job now is to prevent re-importation,” he said in Beijing last week.

However, some people say that the biggest obstacle to opening the border may ultimately be political.

Feng Chucheng, founder of Plenum, a Beijing consulting firm, said that the Chinese Communist Party hopes to maintain zero cases during the Winter Olympics, perhaps until the party’s important congress and leadership changes at the end of 2022.

He said that if this is done, it will be possible to “declare victory in the fight against the pandemic and the superiority of China’s political system.”

Additional reporting by Qianer Liu in Shenzhen and Wang Xueqiao in Shanghai

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