China could “in the near future” move away from its zero-Covid-19 strategy and coexist with the virus, a top Chinese scientist said in a possible sign that the country’s leadership is rethinking its strict approach.
China’s ‘zero-Covid-19’ approach
The country where Covid-19 was first discovered in 2019 is now one of the last places to still take a zero-tolerance approach, responding to minor outbreaks with rapid shutdowns and cutting off most international travel.
But fatigue from disruptions to everyday life and Hong Kong’s semi-autonomous struggle to contain a massive Omicron outbreak raised questions about the sustainability of China’s approach.
China’s strategy against Covid-19 cannot “stay forever unchanged” and “it is humanity’s long-term goal to coexist with the virus” at acceptable death and morbidity rates, Zeng Guang wrote in a social media post Monday.
Low infection rate a ‘weak spot’
Zeng is the former chief scientist of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention and one of the experts behind the country’s first Covid-19 response.
Zeng said that while China’s approach had prevented the early chaos of widespread infection experienced by many Western countries, the country’s low infection rate was now a “weak point” as far fewer people had built up natural immunity.
He said Western countries were now showing “commendable courage” in exploring how to deal with the virus and that China should “observe and learn”, even though it was still “not necessary to open the country’s doors.” opening at the height of the global pandemic”.
“In the near future, at the right time, the roadmap for Chinese-style coexistence with the virus should be presented,” Zeng wrote on the Weibo platform.
Zeng’s comments are unusual for an official in the Chinese government, who has touted his low infection rates with the Chinese public as a sign of the superiority of his approach.
Experts who previously questioned “zero Covid” have faced backlash, including prominent scientist Zhang Wenhong which was attacked by online trolls and investigated for plagiarism after a similar Weibo post in July.
Zeng’s post didn’t seem to make much of a splash online, drawing only a few thousand responses on a platform where trending topics normally appeal to millions of users.
© Agence France-Presse