Posted 1 декабря 2022,, 14:23

Published 1 декабря 2022,, 14:23

Modified 24 декабря 2022,, 22:38

Updated 24 декабря 2022,, 22:38

There is no way out: what China's policy of zero tolerance for covid has led to

1 декабря 2022, 14:23
After three years of the pandemic, almost the entire world has returned to the pre-COVID way of life, except for China, which is in a critical situation.

China was the first - and only - country to completely defeat the coronavirus at the start of the pandemic. Thanks to unprecedented tough measures, mass testing of hundreds of thousands of people at any time of the day in areas where at least one case was found, weeks of quarantine, which closed entire areas and cities where positive tests were found, mandatory two-week quarantine for all visitors (at their expense ), for quite a long time the number of new cases remained at the level of several tens or even zero.

Three years later, with the entire world more or less back to pre-Covid lifestyles—except to account for the increased annual deaths—China is doing very badly. After a honeymoon in the first year of the pandemic, restrictive measures of varying degrees of severity remain throughout the country, and recently, instead of easing, they have only intensified - because the curve of new infections in China is rising exponentially. People are protesting against the new round of tightening measures. The latest trigger was a fire in the city of Urumqi, where many more people died than they could, because the burning house was quarantined, and residents could not leave it, and firefighters could not pass due to blocked roads.

How did it happen that China went from a leader in the fight against covid to a deeply lagging state? Microbiologist and science journalist Irina Yakutenko answers this question in her blog:

Oddly enough (in fact, not at all strange) the reason lies precisely in this overly strict policy, multiplied by ineffective vaccines (the PRC has at least 7 of them, but they are all very so-so), insufficient vaccination rates, especially among the elderly, and to the arrival of new super-infectious and immune-defying strains. According to official data, 87.9% of the population in China is vaccinated, but a) the statistics of authoritarian countries with partially planned economies should be trusted with caution b) most of the vaccinated received only two doses, and for a long time, and this is not enough to prevent infections and sufficiently reduce severe cases in Vulnerable groups c) Vaccines in China are not very good, which means that the overall level of protection is even lower d) The level of vaccination in risk groups in China is significantly lower than the national average.

With the advent of the omicron, all of these factors led to a stalemate. If China tries to reopen now, hospitals and intensive care units will immediately be filled with people with severe coronavirus and dying - not to mention the massive infections of doctors. In addition, we recall that in China, due to the long-term policy of reproductive restrictions, the percentage of the elderly, the main risk group, is very high. Vaccinations with ineffective vaccines, made long ago and not updated since then, will not be able to significantly slow down the spread of omicron - especially considering that due to the severe restrictive policy of the last three years in China, there are very few recovered cases whose immunity could contribute to the creation collective protection. As a result, the virus has 1.5 billion people with very weak immunity, which, moreover, omicron has learned to bypass remarkably. Play - I don't want to.

Yes, vaccination, albeit with ineffective vaccines, will partially protect people from a severe course, but not enough to avoid a collapse in healthcare. And a prolonged collapse.

It is not clear what China should do with all this. Experts, including Chinese, who, of course, have long warned of an impending catastrophe, offer various methods - from emergency vaccination of the elderly (ideally, with normal vaccines, primarily based on mRNA technology, which China has so far refused to buy) to mass use of paxlovide, an inhibitor of an important viral protease, which prevents the pathogen from multiplying in the body to the stage when the risk of developing a severe course is high. These two methods seem to be the most realistic, although the latter will almost certainly lead to Paxlovid-resistant variants, which is very bad for the rest of the world. Other options, such as the massive use of monoclonal antibodies (mabs), seem completely fantastic, given that mabs need to be applied at an early stage (like Paxlovid, by the way), most of them require intravenous administration and, finally, the virus supersuccessfully leaves them, that is these drugs quickly lose their effectiveness.

In general, there are no good exits, and this is never news. All sane experts have been talking about the futility of the zero tolerance policy for covid for a very long time. But authoritarian governments are distinguished by the fact that the bearers of a different opinion do not have leverage, using which they could influence the authorities. The result can be different, but more often it turns out to be bad. And when there are 1.5 billion people in a country, and you are the second economy in the world, this bad result will inevitably affect the rest of the countries. What we will observe in the near future..."

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