Exploitation of epidemic must be curbed

A customer shows his health code to a waitress before entering a restaurant in a shopping mall in Chaoyang district of Beijing, capital of China, June 6, 2022. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

There is no doubt the mobility controls the country has put in place have helped to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus whenever it has tried to gain a foothold in the country. Given the country's huge population and the reluctance of many elderly to get vaccinated, it is the country's weapon of choice in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

And everybody has wholeheartedly supported the restrictions, until they are implemented beyond the needs of the hour that is. Although prompt and decisive responses have proven instrumental in pre-empting the virus' community transmission, when prolonged beyond need, they have unnecessarily and disproportionately harmed people's livelihoods and local economic activities.

Since the anti-pandemic campaign has been a priority for all local governments, there has been a conspicuous tendency on their part to over-react when infections are detected locally.

A tendency that has been exacerbated by the exorbitant profits to be made by the businesses carrying out the nucleic acid tests, which have a vested interest in sustaining and sensationalizing the local epidemic situation. No wonder multiple institutions and individuals in multiple localities are under investigation on suspicion of illicit profiteering.

As downward pressure is building up on the Chinese economy, there have been growing calls for more targeted measures to minimize the impact on economic development and normal lives.

Contagious as it is, there has been mounting scientific evidence that the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus is significantly less life-threatening than previous ones. Under such a circumstance, there is an imperative need to stop disproportionately hyping up fear of the virus, and to put more emphasis on balancing the needs of containing the pandemic and of safeguarding the economy.

The State Council's latest admonishments against such local practices as excessive duplicative nucleic acid testing requirements and unwarranted restrictions on movements that obstruct cargo transport, represent a sensible follow-up to its recent, repeated calls for removing man-made bottlenecks impeding the country's logistics supplies, which is crucial to not only the normal operation of pandemic-hit communities, but to the health of the national economy as well.

In fact, over the past few weeks, the State Council has issued frequent calls for stabilizing logistics, industry and supply chains. To little effect.

Its latest threat of legal actions against those whose obstruction of logistics supplies result in serious consequences are important, because otherwise it will be very difficult to deal with deeply entrenched vested interests.

Preventing the anti-epidemic measures from being applied over-zealously will help ensure that those implementing them keep their eyes on the right ball and they are applied appropriately and effectively to contain the virus.