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Friday, Mar 31, 2023

Zero line set to remain after congress

Zero line set to remain after congress

A leading Chinese epidemiologist says the mainland must maintain its dynamic "zero infection" strategy against Covid as the country would suffer enormous losses and harm if defenses against the new Omicron variants were scrapped.
In advancing that view Liang Wannian of the National Health Commission also said the rates of infection, severe cases and deaths were the world's lowest.

So he argued during an interview with broadcaster CCTV that Beijing's zero policy has proved to be effective, feasible and scientific in the anti-pandemic battle for three years.

Asked whether the central government could change its anti-Covid policies after the Chinese Communist Party's upcoming national congress, Liang responded that was not for him to answer because he is a scholar and focuses on combating the pandemic scientifically.

"Over the past three years both the government and Chinese people have been hoping to resume normality," he added, "but it's still hard to say when can we start to ease restrictions from a scientific perspective.

"Currently, we do not have Covid medications that are particularly effective and accessible. The vaccines have done a good job in preventing severe illnesses and deaths, but protection against infection is not as good as we expected."

Liang noted too that Omicron variants are highly contagious and can infect a large number of people within a short time, causing huge casualties.

Large-scale Covid outbreaks would also paralyze the health system and affect non-Covid patients, Liang went on, having a major impact on society.

So Beijing will likely stick to its zero strategy beyond the party congress - a reading spelled out in state media in pouring cold water on hopes for a relaxation of infection controls. Among others, People's Daily backed the zero strategy three days in a row from Monday.

Back in Hong Kong, Libby Lee Ha-yun, the under secretary for health, said yesterday that the SAR's anti-Covid measures must be relaxed gradually, though mandatory PCR test requirement for arrivals at the airport should remain.

She said the airport test is necessary in fast detection of positive cases and in determining whether new Covid variants are entering Hong Kong.

She also noted that more people have been traveling overseas since the 0+3 arrangement was adopted, and on that she urged people to get vaccinated before leaving.

Additionally, authorities reported that around 3.1 percent of people arriving in Hong Kong from September 19 to 25 tested positive. But the positive rate then increased to 4.9 percent from September 26 to October 2 in the wake of the introduction of the 0+3 system.

Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu earlier pointed to the SAR seeing an increase in international travel since the mandatory hotel quarantine for arrivals was scrapped recently. But authorities need to strike a balance between economic activities and public health, he added.

"We have to protect our high-risk population, especially the elderly and the very young," Lee said. "We are talking about human lives here. We cannot afford to do nothing."

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