Why Shanghai sticks with zero-COVID policy? Part 1
"Shanghai's epidemic prevention is not only about the city, but the whole country."
[For part 2, please check Why Shanghai sticks with zero-COVID policy (Part 2) - facts from the ground ]
As Shanghai races to ensure daily supplies and launches citywide antigen testing amid COVID-19 resurgence, the discussion of China’s “dynamic zero-COVID” policy is heated again.
Chinese Vice Premier Sun Chunlan on Saturday urged resolute and swift moves to stem the spread of the virus in Shanghai in the shortest time possible. On Sunday, thousands of medics arrived in Shanghai by high-speed trains departing from provincial-level regions such as Tianjin, Hubei, Shandong and Jiangxi, to aid the megacity in COVID-19 response.
Medical workers from Shandong Province take part in a departure ceremony before leaving for Shanghai
Today's newsletter offers you a translation of a post which was first published on the WeChat blog 兔主席 Chairman Rabbit [links to his Twitter] on April 3. In this post, which has been viewed more than 100,000 times, the author explained why it is not the time for Shanghai to adjust its COVID-19 approach.
As far as Ginger River is concerned, behind the blog popular among usually better-informed Chinese readers is Ren Yi, whose writings are well-read and influential in China. But he isn’t a decision-maker.
Ginger River's friend Wang Zichen, the Pekingnologist, posted translations of Chairman Rabbit’s two-part WeChat blogs on China’s COVID-19 strategy vis-a-vis that in the United States earlier this year. (links: A comparison between COVID control in China and U.S. and China’s next step on COVID, as estimated by Chairman Rabbit.)
The original title of the article is 上海，是全国的上海——关于上海疫情 Shanghai is the whole country's Shanghai - About the Shanghai outbreak. The translation, which was done by Ginger River during this weekend, hasn’t been reviewed by the author. The highlights are by Ginger River.
Ginger River knows that the article contains some views which not every subscriber will agree with, and this newsletter is not posted to convince you anything, but to offer you some exposure to some different views, which might be at least partly what you signed up for.
Here is the full text:
Shanghai is the whole country's Shanghai. When Shanghai needs support in the COVID-19 outbreak, various parts of the country will come to help. Shanghai is the whole's country's Shanghai, so it must also be placed in the national joint epidemic prevention and control system.
1.Epidemic prevention and control work is always a political issue, and because it is related to the safety of people's lives, it is the biggest political issue, and there is no greater political issue than this.
2.Epidemic prevention is about public health, and public health is not simply a "medical issue," but a public policy, and public policy is also politics.
3.It is politically and culturally impossible for the Chinese government and civil society to allow lifting restrictions at the cost of massive human lives. In the case of Shanghai [with a population of over 24 million], for example, benchmarking the population of Hong Kong (Editor’s note: Hong Kong has a population of about 7.4 million people), it means tens of thousands of deaths in three months, corresponding to over a thousand or tens of thousands of families. Such a thing cannot be allowed to happen in China. Once it happens, the consequences are unthinkable. Put to the whole country, that is hundreds of thousands of people, millions of people, or even more. Isn't this a political issue? It is the biggest politics of all. The Chinese government can’t hastily and passively lift restrictions without the fullest and most comprehensive argumentation. This is not politicization [of the epidemic prevention work]. This is science.
4.Based on various considerations, the central government has made it clear that the current strategy on epidemic prevention remains unchanged, the established guidelines and policies on epidemic prevention and control remain unchanged, and the direction of comprehensively and dynamically stamping out all community infections remains unchanged. This is a political decision based on science.
5.[It is important] to take the whole country into account and [secure] a unified deployment of the 1.4 billion people. There is no turning back for China to dynamically adjust its [zero-COVID] approach. We only have one shot at making this move. We can only succeed, not fail. Failure means all previous work is wasted, the consequences are unimaginable.
6.All provinces and cities in the Chinese mainland are connected, and before the adjustment of the epidemic prevention policy, all places must follow the established guidelines for epidemic prevention and become part of the joint prevention and control work, and must also follow the established rules and standards to judge the implementation of public policies. No place has the right to explore the so-called "coexistence" [with COVID] model on its own. The adjustment of the epidemic prevention policy must be carried out under the unified deployment of the central government and the whole country.
7.From this perspective, Shanghai's epidemic prevention is not only about Shanghai itself, not only about Shanghai citizens, but about the whole country. Shanghai is not [just] Shanghai's Shanghai, but the whole country's Shanghai. China's most developed first-tier cities can't "jump the gun" and must follow and cooperate with the national rhythm [in the battle against COVID-19].
8. Even to explore the pilot for adjusting the approach to the virus, the pilot provinces and cities must first meet certain mandatory prerequisites. The epidemic situation in Shanghai revealed that Shanghai has a shortage of digital infrastructure for epidemic prevention ([for instance, the issue of] the app 健康云 Jiankangyun, meaning "health cloud"), a shortage of temporary treatment centers (方舱 Fangcang shelter hospitals), and a lack of necessary infrastructure support for home isolation of mild cases (from the application of electronic locks to the ability to enforce grid-based grassroots governance), as well as a large number of education and publicity efforts which should be done before the outbreak. The three-dose vaccination rate target is also an important prerequisite. Has Shanghai reached these prerequisites? If it can not reach these prerequisites, then it can't change the approach. Even if the city think she has met the requirements, the city can't change the approach without permission, but must follow the central unified deployment.
9.The actual situation is that the Shanghai's exploration of "precise prevention and control of COVID-19" at the earlier stage has been broken through by Omicron. The outbreak at the community level forced Shanghai into a passive position. Because of the shortage of the above-mentioned many hard and software conditions, [the city] even had to take the initiative to use and strain public hospital resources, affecting the needs of other patients. And the ability to prevent the straining of medical resources is the basic premise of the adjustment of the approach to COVID-19! This further illustrates: you can't explore policy adjustment hastily before you are fully prepared. It is more costly to stamp out the infections after the outbreak in the community.
10. No one can stand the city lockdown (including China), and this is the reason why other countries and regions have to choose "coexistence" [with the COVID-19], but many people forget that the original intention and purpose for us to use digital means and 360 degree grid-based community governance to pursue "dynamic zero-COVID" is to avoid massive city lockdowns, reduce the economic cost, prevent the straining of medical resources in an absolute sense, and to make the "zero-COVID" policy economically sustainable. Avoiding city lockdown is at the center of our COVID-19 public policy on epidemic prevention. So the core of the system is not to allow a major outbreak at the community level - just like you have to put out the fire at the very beginning when trying to put out a fire, not wait until it spreads and then put it out, which is costly. It can be said that Shanghai's epidemic prevention system first failed, or being careless, with defense live being breaking through, which is fundamental. And it was because the [epidemic] expanded and Shanghai was unable to complete the epidemic prevention goals under China's joint prevention and control system for dynamic zero-COVID policy on her own, the city needs the assistance of other places of the country. If we want to review the situation, we should avoid community outbreaks in the first place, which is the root of everything. The lesson is profound!
11.After the virus broke through the defense line, the grassroots health care and governance organizations were exhausted and the people were very distressed, and at the same time, it was accompanied by bureaucracy and formalism in implementation, which added to the difficulties and challenges. All this should not have happened, could have been avoided, and deserves a deep reflection.
12.We still have to find positive energy in the battle against th epidemic: we have to be grateful to all the staff who struggled on the front line, and we have to encourage the millions and millions of Shanghai people. A city of tens of millions of people fighting against the epidemic must be able to bring valuable experience, to turn the "bad" into "good", to add new lessons to Shanghai's battle against the epidemic, to help us better cope with COVID-19 in the future.
13.It can be seen that China has chosen a path of epidemic prevention that is unique to human society, which is not only the need of China's special national conditions, but also the embodiment of China's institutional capacity. China will definitely be united in its determination, and will use several years to dynamically adjust its epidemic prevention policies, and consolidate every step we take to finally complete the whole process of epidemic prevention and control work. China's ultimate goal is to become the only country in human society that truly avoids massive loss of human lives due to COVID-19. The digital governance, grid-based grassroots governance, and a community-wide public health model that China is exploring, will not only be used to deal with COVID-19, but also with the more horrific viruses and superbugs that humanity may encounter in the future. If China can blaze such a path, it will be a success for the country as well as a contribution to human civilization. (Enditem)
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