A couple of places located in the Asia-Pacific had managed to bring down infections to zero, in the light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The only country to hold on to this position with the rapid spread of delta variants and escalations of vaccines in China.
With New Zealand gradually making plans to take off its zero-tolerance strategy, China still maintains to be a part of the countries that have completely isolated themselves, closing their borders, planning abrupt lockdowns, and repeatedly disrupting social as well as economic activities.
Covid Zero countries like Singapore and Australia have arrived at the understanding that such a system is unsustainable, while they presently focus on heavy vaccination rates in order to protect people from serious illness and death. They also seek to ease the attempts to control the number of infections.
China on the contrary maintains a stricter position in terms of dealing with the number of infections, even though 75% percent of its entire population is fully vaccinated. This week the government has imposed a lockdown on a prefecture in the western Xinjiang province, ahead of two asymptomatic cases of infection, during the peak season of tourism.
Hong Kong, a place that has hitherto resisted any local transmission of the delta variant, has also made it clear that they are presently giving a bigger priority to a joint goal of elimination than to achieve a greater status at the global financial hub. Things are likely to get more difficult in the coming days, as cold weather, convenient for the rapid spread of the virus, descends. Beijing is scheduled to hold the winter Olympics, welcoming a good number of athletes from around the world.
Peter Collignon, an infectious disease physician and professor at the Australian National University Medical School states, “Covid Zero in the medium-to-long term is unsustainable.” He further says, “Delta shows the almost impossibility of that. It’s hard to see how China will be able to get to zero Covid this winter.” With the leaders of the country taking political pride in its Covid Zero status, claiming it to be a moral and ideological victory over the US and other nations, speculations arise that its strategy may leave it isolated for years.
Chinese officials have stated that they do not plan to cling forever to the Covid Zero strategy. However, they also observe that a change will be considered only after the approach fails to work or the costs of maintaining it becomes excessive. The city governments are being instructed to develop specialized quarantine facilities which would be able to house thousands of arrivals by the end of October. This signals that ongoing travel curbs may be loosened a bit in the near future.