China isn’t pivoting from COVID zero yet

Science & Health

Despite adjustments to its pandemic playbook, China is sticking to its dynamic COVID-zero approach.

Illustration for SupChina by Derek Zheng

New revisions to COVID treatment policies “does not mean prevention and control will ease in China,” a senior official at the National Health Commission, Jiāo Yǎhuī 焦雅辉, said last Friday, as China continues to fine-tune its pandemic playbook amid its most recent set of outbreaks.

China reported its first COVID-19 deaths in more than a year on Saturday, with the two fatalities occurring in Jilin Province.

  • A total of 33 makeshift hospitals have been built or are currently under construction, Jiao said, after China updated its treatment guidelines to reserve hospital space for those severe cases.
  • Chinese leader Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 called for reducing “the epidemic’s impact on socioeconomic development as much as possible” at a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau last week.

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Cities are moving back and forth between locking down and opening up, as authorities adjust restrictions based on local situations to chart a “Chinese-style road map to living with the virus.”

  • Shanghai on Tuesday reported a fifth consecutive daily record for locally transmitted COVID-19 asymptomatic cases. Though the city ruled out a broad lockdown last week, authorities have designated some backup medical institutes for quarantine and treatment, reverted schools back to online learning, and temporarily shut the city’s Disney Resort.
  • Shenzhen has seen government offices and businesses resume normal work and production this week, citing control over the outbreak.
  • Jilin Province, which has seen the majority of cases in China, has started treating COVID patients with Pfizer’s antiviral pill Paxlovid, the first time that the drug has been used in the mainland since being cleared by health authorities in February.
  • Shenyang, a city of 9 million people in Jilin’s neighboring province of Liaoning, and home to factories such as that of carmaker BMW, was put under lockdown after 47 new cases were reported on Tuesday.
  • Hong Kong recently released a new blueprint for undoing the city’s strict virus measures that have severely curbed daily life since the start of the pandemic.

Since the outbreak, at least 74 officials have been sacked or punished for failing to detect and quickly control the spread of the virus, per the South China Morning Post. A number of people who have voiced their frustrations about the restrictions online have also been censored or urged by officials not to “spread rumors,” Reuters reports.


Follow our coverage of the Shanghai lockdown.

Nadya Yeh