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COVID19

Zero-COVID policy keeps pandemic under control

Updated: Jan 10, 2022 By WANG XIAOYU China Daily Print
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Residents line up for nucleic acid tests in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, on Dec 10 after new cases were detected in the city.[Photo/Xinhua]

Claims dismissed

A common misconception of China's virus control strategy is that it is aimed at achieving zero infections.

Liang said, "Currently, we are not capable of ensuring there will be no more new domestically transmitted infections, but we are capable and confident of stamping out local infection clusters as quickly as possible.

"A dynamic zero-COVID strategy means not letting the pandemic spiral out of control, but actively controlling it. This strategy meant we had to take prompt and precise action."

Liang said the first line of defense is implementing pre-departure prevention measures targeting overseas travelers to China-placing these arrivals under "close-loop management" immediately they enter the country. Measures to prevent transmission via objects should also be taken.

Wen Xiaoqing, an official with the health commission in Tianjin, said local authorities have devised seamless procedures for handling overseas passengers.

"Our measures start right after an international flight lands in Tianjin-from checking passengers' health codes, temperatures and vaccination history, to conducting epidemiological investigation," he said.

"People with symptoms such as fever or respiratory illnesses are transferred by special vehicles to designated hospitals, where they are isolated for further diagnosis and treatment. We also thoroughly disinfect all areas they pass through."

Wu Hao, a national-level disease control expert and public health professor at Capital Medical University in Beijing, said the fact that the mainland's first Omicron infection was detected in a centralized isolation area is evidence of the effectiveness of the nation's monitoring system.

Liang, from the National Health Commission, said increased surveillance measures, especially at fever clinics, along with additional nucleic acid testing capacity and constant screening for mutation, are also key to China containing the virus.

In July and August, some 10 rounds of mass testing were carried out in Yangzhou, Jiangsu province, to handle a local outbreak of COVID-19.

Wu Feng, head of the intensive care unit at the Affiliated Hospital of Yangzhou University, said during a news briefing that because the novel coronavirus has an incubation period and is transmitted "stealthily", it is extremely difficult to detect all infections at the same time.

"As a result, even when the majority of residents test negative for the virus in earlier rounds of mass testing, it is necessary to launch more tests at the right moment," he said.

Last month, when Manzhouli, Inner Mongolia autonomous region, was hit by a local outbreak, the city's testing capacity stood at some 12,000 samples per day.

Guo Yanhong, an official at the National Health Commission's medical supervision and administration bureau, said that by sending medical assistance teams and mobile testing facilities to the city, as well as involving local third-party institutions, daily testing capacity in Manzhouli quickly rose to 152,000 samples.

Guo said that as of last month, 30 million samples could be processed nationwide each day.

"Also, to lessen the public's financial burden, most provincial-level regions have lowered the cost of a test per person to less than 40 yuan ($6.30) and to under 10 yuan for group tests," she said.

Liang said, "We have accumulated a complete and science-based tool kit to tackle the disease, including widespread nucleic acid tests, the ability to trace close contacts, deliver treatment, mobilize local communities, and ensure normal transportation and livelihoods.

"It is not a single measure or strategy that works, but a combination of multiple factors-for instance, an altruistic spirit, as well as coordination between government departments."

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