On Saturday, August 6, 2022, China recorded 129 new Covid cases. This is in addition to the 229 cases that were confirmed the day before. As a result, the southern Chinese beach resort of Sanya was officially declared a hotspot for COVID-19, leaving 80,000 tourists stranded.
The lockdown is an attempt to stop the spread of the virus on the tropical Hainan island; it has come in the peak of the tourist season. Sanya is a tourist attraction famous for its beautiful resorts and beaches, known to receive thousands of visitors each year. However, with the recent spike in Covid-19 cases, ticket sales have been banned by the railway authorities and scheduled flights have been cancelled.
Tourists that intend to leave Sanya need to get a negative COVID-19 result from five PCR tests within a period of seven days.Guests have been offered a 50% discount by hotels during the lockdown period.
The ruling communist party of China has stuck to a control strategy, a “zero-COVID” approach in order to prevent transmission of the virus. The policy involves various measures, such as vaccination, contact tracing and quarantine to achieve zero cases.
In March this year, Shanghai, China’s largest city, recorded its worst hit from the COVID-19 virus. Millions of people were ‘trapped’ as the authorities imposed a lock down on the city for two months. Strict lockdowns have resulted in a blow to the national economy, and havoc among residents as families are separated. Residents that tested positive were taken to the hospital or quarantine centers. Their neighbors’ movements were restricted.
Based on official statistics, Mainland China recorded 5000 deaths in comparison to other countries that recorded over 6 million deaths. While some question the reliability of this report, others are convinced that the report is a testimony of the zero-covid policy’s effectiveness. China’s president has said on several occasions that “people’s lives are of utmost importance” in order to clear all doubts of the counting method of China. The zero-COVID approach has protected China from hits; however, the lockdown imposed hasnegative effects like shortage of food supply, economic disruptions, poor access to medical care Hence, the dynamic zero COVID-19 strategy is not sustainable.
One of the adverse effects of the lockdown, as revealed by reports from residents on social media, is that people with chronic or non-COVID-19 related illnesses have limited access to medical care. in a bid to ‘save lives’, China has set itself up to lose much more. Focused on achieving zero COVID-19 cases, China has ignored other diseases.
Speaking with The Lancet, two officials from the provincial-level health commissions of China spoke of how the corona virus has turned into a politicized disease. Turning against the zero-COVID approach is equivalent to being punished. The damage it has caused outweighs the benefits. Ironically, the vaccination campaign had been taken quite slowly. Although China had manufactured its own vaccines ,Sinovacand Sinopharm, the groups that need it most have not been prioritized. In February 2021, about 3.46% of China’s population had been vaccinated. By August 2021, 53% were vaccinated. Currently, 87% have been vaccinated. A booster dose makes effectiveness to reach 98%. Even with 87% of the population receiving the vaccine, only about half of the older population (above 80 years) have been vaccinated with two doses.
Groups that are vulnerable to disease, like the elderly, are not protected. They are prone to get infected and can have worsened viral symptoms
With the perceived notion that Coronavirus is under control, citizens think that there is no need to be vaccinated. In addition, there is misinformation about the side effects of the vaccines as people are afraid of heart attacks and severe allergies.
The zero-COVID approach can slow down the spread of the virus but it is ineffective against it. The variant, Omicron, can defy lockdowns, isolation, closed borders, mass testing and quarantine, making China stuck with cycles of outbreaks. The approach has disrupted consumer spending, manufacturing and supply chain. With China at the edge of economic recession, this approach is not sustainable; hence, the government would need to consider other methods.
Millions of people cannot staylocked in their homes for several days or not visit the hospital when the need arises. Medical guidelines should be put in place on how to treat patients with various levels of severity. China’s political landscape has a critical role to play in the effective control of the COVID-19 virus.