The Chinese government used to be called "zero Covid". This is due to the fact that the virus has become too transmissible to be contained. Entire cities are no longer in lock down, restrictions on domestic travel have been lifted, and people who test positive can now live with Covid in their homes. The cases of Covid-19 that were not counted are no longer being counted. Elderly people and vulnerable people are being urged to take the vaccine.

Why China took so long to immunize these groups and why the government didn't accept western vaccines is baffling to global health experts. According to the director of national intelligence in the US, there is a vaccine in China that is not nearly as effective as a vaccine from the west. It took China a long time to develop its own vaccine. In China, only half of the population have received three shots, which is low compared to other nations.

Due to the fall in testing, the true extent of Covid-19 is not known. The pain of pretending Covid-19 doesn't exist doesn't mean the disease is gone. According to experts, 40% of the Chinese population will be affected by the disease in 90 days. By the end of March, deaths could reach close to 9000 a day because of the high levels of infections.

China's official death toll isn't reliable right now. The Chinese government isn't reporting Covid-19 deaths. Hospitals are competing to get medical staff. Student doctors are being put on the frontline and retired medics are being asked to come back. Patients will die from all causes if the healthcare system collapses. This has always been the biggest challenge of Covid-19.

The trade-offs in a Pandemic are not between the economy and health. Staff shortages are being caused by the spread of Covid because of illness. Only 20% of staff came to work last Friday in one factory in the eastern province of Shandong. Allowing the virus to spread doesn't mean the economy can go on as usual The economy doesn't function as before if people can't work or are too scared to eat out.

Sweden tried to avoid mandatory restrictions before entering an emergency lock down in the winter of 2020 Early restrictions were implemented by Norway in March of that year. The death toll in Sweden is twelve times higher than in Norway. The economic toll was the same for both countries.

When it came to preventing infections in 2020, countries were allowed to buy time before life-saving scientific tools were available. Several safe and effective vaccines were developed and two effective treatments were identified during the first year of Covid-19. Treatments and solutions began to be made available to everyone. The countries that did this quickly were South Korea, Norway, Japan, and New Zealand.

Learning to live with Covid has begun in China. The disease is difficult to manage due to how it spreads, the range in severity of the disease, and the time it takes to develop scientific tools to reduce hospitalisations and deaths. Data, humility and analysis are required to assess the situation. Governments that have access to vaccines and treatments should be managing the disease differently than they were in 2020. It would be great if China could do it quickly.

  • The University of Edinburgh has a chair in public health.