The strict closure of Shanghai has made the outside world question why such extreme measures are still needed to deal with the less toxic Omicron, and the fact that the spread of Omicron and its variants has been proved to be uncontrollable. However, foreign media analyzed that China took Hong Kong as a lesson, and the zero-clearing strategy has become mainstream political awareness, and China may not relax control until 2023.
For the past two years, Shanghai has been in a state of singing and dancing, and the Wuhan pneumonia period has not affected Shanghai. It seems that the virus has never crossed Shanghai in the future, but this time it cannot escape the rapidly spreading Omicron mutant strain. Shanghai is now in a state of war. According to Shanghai residents, community residents now rely on outsiders to be responsible for purchasing and cannot leave their homes. Some communities even have problems with material rationing, and they can even eat only one bowl of porridge a day. Large-scale people crowded hospitals for nucleic acid testing, and medical resources were crowded out, causing people who really needed medical assistance to lose their lives.
The sudden outbreak of the epidemic in Shanghai has made the epidemic prevention control messy. Even with the strictest control measures, Shanghai has reported a total of 40,000 cases in March, becoming the new virus center in China. To keep businesses running, the Shanghai government kept port, factory and some office workers living in their workplaces, such as those in the financial industry who were forced to sleep in their offices for weeks.
The economic shock is already on the horizon, with the Caixin Markit monthly index showing that China’s manufacturing activity fell to a two-year low in March amid disruptions to the outbreak and export orders cancelled after Russia invaded Ukraine. One statistic using trucking estimates that China’s lost productivity due to the lockdown is close to $50 billion a month. While the port is still operating normally, a supply chain tracking company said there has been a reduction in seaborne volumes.
The loss caused by the reset policy is too great. Originally, many people expected that the end of the Beijing Winter Olympics would bring a turning point in China’s new crown policy, but now the reset policy has become a mainstream political task, including Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Believing that the threat of BA.2 is still great, the country must adhere to this approach, and Chinese Vice Premier Sun Chunlan also urged Shanghai to take decisive and swift action to contain the epidemic, while emphasizing the need to adhere to a dynamic zero-epidemic policy.
The outside world believes that the epidemic in Hong Kong has made China afraid. Low vaccination rates among the elderly are one of the reasons for the high COVID-19 mortality rate in Hong Kong, and these risk factors are also present in China. Only half of China’s population over the age of 80 has been twice vaccinated, and Chinese health authorities have repeatedly warned that the health system could be overwhelmed if the virus spreads widely among its 1.4 billion people, especially if vaccinations for older people lag behind.
According to QUARTZ, what China is doing now is to find as many infected people as possible, buy time to ensure adequate medical capacity and increase vaccination rates. The former chief economist at UBS said China must make sure there is no Hong Kong situation ahead of the Communist Party Congress this fall.
In addition, the new five-year development plan released by the Civil Aviation Administration of China in January, which describes 2023-2025 as a period of growth for domestic and international travel, is also a signal for China to relax its zero-clearing strategy. The Chinese government is expected to keep restrictions on and off for the rest of 2022, with major changes only in 2023.