China medical experts say zero-Covid strategy buys time to vaccinate more people

SHANGHAI, May 10 ― China’s tough zero-Covid measures remain essential to defeat the pandemic and buy time to improve vaccination rates and develop new treatments, senior health advisers wrote in recently published reports.

Shanghai, a city of 25 million people, has been locked down for nearly six weeks as it battles China’s biggest coronavirus outbreak, but the government have shrugged off criticism of its zero-Covid strategy, saying it remains the best option.

In correspondence published by the peer-reviewed medical journal the Lancet last Friday, a team of city medical experts said Shanghai’s vital role in the national economy made lockdown unavoidable.

“As a leading economic centre and an open city in China, Shanghai has huge exchanges with other cities and regions in the country, so the spill-out of virus to other places… could have unimaginably severe consequences,” said the team, which includes Zhang Wenhong, an adviser to authorities in Shanghai on treatment for Covid-

Shanghai’s “dynamic” zero-Covid policies would “overcome weak links in the immunological barrier in populations across the country”, they said, pointing out that around 49 million people aged 60 and over were still unvaccinated.

New vaccines specifically targeting Omicron variants could be available soon, but China also needed to overcome vaccine hesitancy, especially among old and vulnerable people, they added.

Dynamic zero-Covid was still required to prevent a “run” on China’s health resources, according to a separate commentary published in the official journal of China’s Disease Prevention and Control Center and cowritten by senior government health advisor Liang Wannian.

“The dynamic Covid-zero strategies adopted by China have won a precious time window for the future,” it said, adding that the country must “seize the opportunity” to develop more drugs and vaccines. ― Reuters

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