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China weighs exit from ”zero COVID” and the risks involved

Since omicron spreads quickly, “we need to take earlier, faster, stricter and more concrete measures,” Chinese disease control official Lei Zhenglong told state television on Monday.

The latest sign came Monday in an essay published by Zhang Wenhong, an infectious disease specialist who is part of Shanghai's COVID-19 response team and known as China's “Dr. Fauci” — after U.S. government expert Anthony Fauci — for his public health messaging during the pandemic.
The latest sign came Monday in an essay published by Zhang Wenhong, an infectious disease specialist who is part of Shanghai's COVID-19 response team and known as China's “Dr. Fauci” — after U.S. government expert Anthony Fauci — for his public health messaging during the pandemic.

China on Friday ruled out relaxing its much-criticised “dynamic zero-COVID” policy of restricting international travel and minimising contacts with the outside world, as it battles sporadic spikes of fresh coronavirus cases with prolonged lockdowns of cities.

China will adhere to its “dynamic zero-COVID” policy to contain its current outbreak, Wang Hesheng, vice-minister of the National Health Commission and administrator of the National Disease Control and Prevention Administration told the media, as the country mobilised health officials to contain spikes of coronavirus cases in a number of cities.

The goal of the ‘Zero case policy’ approach is to bring the epidemic under control in the shortest possible time with minimum cost to society, official media here quoted him as saying.

The essence of the approach is swift response and targeted prevention and control, he said.
China has pledged rigorous and targeted COVID-19 prevention and control measures to contain the latest wave of infections caused by the Omicron variant, Wang said.

His comments came as President Xi Jinping on Thursday called for swift containment measures to arrest the spread of the outbreak.
“The ‘dynamic zero’ policy does have some impact on life and work,” Wang admitted. “But considering people’s safety and health, the sacrifices will be worth it.” Under this policy, China has drastically cut international travel which has affected several lakhs of international students, including over 23,000 Indian students, mostly studying medicine who are stuck in India following the cancellation of visas and flights.

Significantly, China is experiencing its biggest spikes in coronavirus cases in recent weeks just as the rest of the world opened up with a drastic fall of cases.

Defending the two-year policy, Wang said it is effective as China has a “very low” number of infections, critical cases and deaths.
Also, China acted with speed to contain virus outbreaks whenever they occurred within one to two incubation periods, which is quite fast, he said.
The vast majority of Chinese people are living normally at the expense of inconvenience in very few areas, he said and played down the economic costs.

“It’s not objective to count only the areas where COVID-19 spreads. We should look at the big picture,” he said People should not blame all the economic losses on COVID-19 control measures. “We need to identify which part of the losses was caused by COVID-19 and which part was due to economic development itself,” he said.

Wang also said China will pay more attention to details in COVID-19 control, respond faster and stronger in order to minimise the economic impact.
His comments came as China is fighting its biggest wave of locally transmitted COVID-19 cases since it contained the initial outbreak in Wuhan in 2020.
The Chinese mainland on Thursday reported 4,292 COVID-19 cases including 2,388 locally transmitted and 1,904 asymptomatic cases, the National Health Commission said Friday.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 patients currently undergoing treatment stood at 16,974, it said.
Since the coronavirus first emerged in Wuhan city, China has so far reported 4,636 deaths due to the virus.

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