Zero covid

Covid’s legacy: how will China remember the pandemic?

48 min listen

Three years ago, as people across China welcomed the Year of the Rat, a new virus was taking hold in Wuhan. In London, the conversation at my family’s New Year dinner was dominated by the latest updates, how many masks and hand sanitisers we’d ordered.  Mercifully, Covid didn’t come up at all as we welcomed the Year of the Rabbit this weekend, though my family in China are still recovering from their recent infections. The zero Covid phase of the pandemic is well and truly over. So what better time to reflect on the rollercoaster of the last three years? In exchange for controlling the virus, China’s borders were shut

The battle for zero-Covid is being fought in Shanghai

Confusion is infecting Shanghai. The authorities are dithering over a promised easing of severe lockdown rules in the face of record cases of Covid-19 and widespread anger over their cack-handed way they have handled the crisis. The city has become a test for China’s faltering zero-Covid strategy, with nervous Communist party leaders sending mixed signals – announcing a change in the rules, while insisting they will stick to what they now characterise as a ‘dynamic’ zero-Covid policy ‘without hesitation or wavering’. At the weekend, vice-mayor Zong Ming announced a reclassification of Shanghai’s districts according to the severity of the outbreak. But the plan is short on detail and residents of

Is China’s zero Covid game up?

Omicron has broken through China’s Covid wall. On Tuesday, the country saw a record-high of more than 5,000 cases, the highest number since the original Wuhan outbreak. To Brits (and most people around the world), that might sound like a laughably small number – but, as you might expect, China’s zero Covid machine has jumped into action, leading to a disproportionate, severe response. In the most afflicted areas like Shenzhen and Changchun, public transport has been suspended, non-essential businesses closed, residential compounds locked down. People can leave their homes to take part in compulsory city-wide mass testing (social media is flooded with videos of lengthy unsocially-distanced queues at test sites)

Devi Sridhar concedes defeat

Amid all yesterday’s defection drama, it was easy to miss that Boris Johnson announced the scrapping of his ‘Plan B’ Covid measures. Such a move has not gone down well among the more hysterical elements of Covid Twitter who appear to see the restoration of civil liberties as a dastardly Tory plot to privatise the NHS. The SNP MP for Central Ayrshire Dr Philippa Whitford spoke for such elements when she called the announcement ‘crazy’, asking ‘Would you slash your seatbelt or airbag in the middle of a car crash?’ Not all of Whitford’s nationalist fellow travellers agree though. For Professor Devi Sridhar, an ardent supporter of ‘Zero Covid’ and lockdowns appears to

China’s zero-Covid policy is becoming unsustainable

With just three weeks until the opening of the Winter Olympics in Beijing, Covid-19 is creeping ever closer to the capital. The Communist party is seeking to isolate Beijing from the rest of the country to keep the virus at bay and the games on track. But its zero-Covid policy, a desperate game of Whac-A-Mole with the virus, is looking increasingly unsustainable. All routes between Beijing and Tianjin have been closed after an outbreak in the port city, which is adjacent to the capital. Flights and high-speed train services in and out of a city of 14 million people have been cancelled and highways closed after the discovery of 126

Diane Abbott’s Zero Covid crusade

With Christmas over, the turkey consumed and Maughamtide been and gone, the eyes of an anxious nation have turned once more to No.10. Boris Johnson deferred the re-introduction of restrictions last week but met with Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance today to discuss the latest Covid data. Fortunately, current indications are that no such measures will be announced in England at the current time. But while most will celebrate the absence of yet more interminable mask-wearing, social distancing and indoor mixing bans, there are some who crave a Covid curb comeback. Among them include the zealots of the ‘Zero Covid Coalition’, whose activities are partly run out of the taxpayer-funded office of

New Zealand’s zero Covid strategy is becoming unsustainable

New Zealand has done remarkably well over the past 18 months at protecting its citizens from the worst of the Covid pandemic – better than almost any other country in the world. Only 26 people have died of Covid in the country, after it has aggressively locked down at the first sign of a case and closed off its borders to the rest of the world. But as we have recently learned in Afghanistan, an exit strategy can easily undermine all your previous achievements. New Zealand is now in a very difficult situation. It is currently facing its first outbreak of the Delta variant, but only a small proportion of

China’s zero Covid strategy is being undermined by mahjong

Mao Zedong once said that the game of mahjong should not be underestimated, because: ‘If you know how to play it, you’ll have a better understanding of the relationship between chance and necessity. There’s philosophy in mahjong. It’s also dialectical… even if you have the worst hand, as long as you are strategic and methodical, the inferior will become superior; weakness will become strength.’ He even claimed the tile-based game was one of China’s three ‘great contributions’ to the world. Ironically, mahjong was outlawed under his rule. The early communists viewed it as an unnecessary distraction for the masses, and disliked its links to gambling and capitalism. It was not

Australia shows the cost of zero Covid

The UK is growing at the fastest pace in 80 years. The United States, fuelled by President Biden’s stimulus programme, is expanding at a breath-taking pace, while Sweden is growing at a rapid rate. Most of the global economy is bouncing back from the Covid recession at remarkable speed. There is, however, one exception. Australia. What has long been one of the most successful economies in the world is heading back not just into lockdown but into recession as well — and giving the world a sharp lesson in the cost of ‘zero Covid’. Over the last year, Australia, along with New Zealand, has been heaped with praise for the