Dynamic zero-COVID policy pays off

A medical worker takes a swab sample from a resident for COVID-19 nucleic acid test in Shanghai, April 9, 2022. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

The latest outbreak of COVID-19’s Omicron variant in Shanghai has increased the number of local infections, forcing authorities to once again impose lockdowns or partial lockdowns. Western critics have blamed China for imposing the dynamic zero-COVID policy, saying this has inconvenienced citizens, hampered economic activity and disrupted supply chains.

Although the number of recorded infections nationwide stands at more than 20,000 a day, the good news is that the vast majority of the infections in China and in Shanghai in particular are asymptomatic. It is also important to note that almost 90 percent of the Chinese population had been fully vaccinated by the end of February.

Few of those critics calling for a change in the dynamic zero-COVID policy seem interested in seeing the policy from China’s perspective, with the policy often explained in political terms. The West projects motivations on China that reinforce their view of the country, and almost entirely dismisses China’s clearly stated basis for the policy to combat COVID-19.

For a country with 1.4 billion people, it posed a great challenge to halt the transmission of the virus. Chinese epidemiologists learned quickly against all odds that lockdowns, isolation and mass testing would slow the spread of the virus. Science was followed without compromise, however inconvenient it looked to critics.

These stringent measures to fight COVID-19 paid off for China. As of mid-April, China’s total number of confirmed cases was just above 170,000, while the number of deaths recorded was 4,638. In comparison to a country like the United States, whose population is one-fourth that of China, the latter is doing much better by far in the fight against COVID-19.

On the same date, the US had total cases of more than 80 million, while the number of recorded deaths reached nearly 1 million. Had it not been for the stringent dynamic zero-COVID policy, it has been estimated that China would have suffered more than 200 million infections and 3 million deaths by now, if it had attempted to “live with the virus” as most countries do.

The West, which at the beginning of the pandemic politicized China’s approach, later adopted the same measures, but applied these in part and often halfheartedly, leading to the disastrous consequences of very high infection and death rates.

Chinese authorities do not take chances when it comes to the protection of people’s lives. The Chinese philosophy of people-centered governance puts the lives of people first, before economic benefit.

China is sticking to the dynamic zero-COVID policy because it has paid dividends. The country still has one of the lowest infection and death rates, despite having a high population. In fact, other countries in the world could learn from China’s experience in containing the virus.

According to available data, the Chinese economy grew by 2.3 percent in 2020, making China the first major economy to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. In contrast, many other economies saw steep declines over the same period due to the pandemic.

Therefore, while Western critics are free to say what they want, the writing on the wall shows evidence that the policy is working to save lives. China’s policy benefits outweigh the temporary inconveniences.

As China defeated the first waves of COVID-19 infections, there is much optimism that the current one will soon be defeated because of the effective measures.

The author is a Rwandan researcher and publisher on China and Africa. 

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.