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What is China's zero-Covid strategy?

The success of China's zero-covid policy allowed Chinese government to claim their "superiority" over the Western approach: but, for how long?

A resident is given Covid-19 nucleic acid test, in Xiamen, southeastern China's Fujian Province, 14 September 2021. Residents of Fujian province's city Xiamen went into a lockdown following a recent outbreak.

After the first COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, China implemented a national three-month lockdown that applied to the entire nation and prevented the spread of the infectious disease throughout the country. While some questioned the approach, it proved effective, with data from Chinese authorities showing zero new cases in the region by the end of the mandatory quarantine.

The Communist Party in China took credit for the effective pandemic containment, while establishing their "superiority" over Western systems, with many countries desperately struggling to contain the virus.

"Zero-tolerance" covid policy

Closed borders

The core idea of China's strategy is zero tolerance, meaning borders are shut-down to minimize imported cases, with the exception of residents, who can still come and go if they are willling to obide by the 21-day quarantine upon returning to China.


Secondly, the policy also includes the complete lock-down of any location with proven signs of covid cases. The application of this policy is intended to allow China's government to be able to tackle the pandemic more easily by preventing mass spread.

However, such strict measures also require collaboration from all of society in order to work; people need to follow the rules strictly, regardless of occupation, status, age, or other attributes.

24-hour shifts

An example of this effort are the 24-hour-shifts carried out by Wuhan medical workers to make COVID-19 testing to all of its population-- 11 million-- viable.

Food delivery and quarantine checking

Social workers together with medical staff regulate individual lockdowns by patrolling streets, visiting on a regular basis the homes of those who are quarantined, as well as helping with the delivery of food and basic necessities to the people.

Lack of personal freedom

Not only those who have a job in the medical and social services are committed to the cause. Regular people are also sacrificing a lot by supporting the zero-covid policy, as it means they are risking their personal freedom and income.

A strategy questioned by many

As the pandemic continues, it's been more difficult for the government to effectively police the policy. The main reason why the strategy worked in the first place was because there was a common goal between politicians and people, however, as time goes by, people get used to live together with the virus, resulting in a change in their priorities, which have now shifted to living a "normal" life. Something that is totally incompatible with the current policy.

People who remember the first outbreak see any current outbreaks as relatively "small" and "non-important", certainly not sufficient for them to abide by the strict measures and mass testing required, at the cost of freedom and income.

Moreover, the effectiveness of the policy has been a contentious issue after a Covid-19 outbreak started at a mass testing hospital. Since then, several cases have only added to questions over the sustainability of the policy, for example the case of one individual who is believed to be the source of a new outbreak after completing the 21 days of mandatory quarantine upon returning to China.