A new Chinese study on the relatively low risks associated with the Omicron coronavirus variant has rekindled the debate over whether the country needs an aggressive response to Covid-19 cases.
China Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday published a study which found that 22 of the more than 33,000 patients hospitalized after a positive Omicron test developed severe disease. All patients who developed a more serious illness were over the age of 60 and had major medical conditions, according to a study conducted from March 22 to May 3 at four hospitals in Shanghai.
In China, anyone who tests positive for coronavirus is sent to a hospital or isolation.
Under government policy on Zero Covid – which closed Shanghai for nearly two months – a single positive test result could block an entire apartment complex, restricting hundreds or even thousands of residents to their homes for weeks with very little notice. When someone gives a positive test for coronavirus, residents in a certain area may be ordered to take tests for three consecutive days to be cleared as a low health risk.
Blockades and constant tests have led to China’s economy is stagnant while fueling outrage among sections of the population who say the measures are excessive.
Last week, a protest erupted in Kunshan, a city bordering Shanghai, because of the rules that do not allow travelers to go to the financial center for work. This came after a demonstration last month in Beijing, the capital, where a group of students from Beijing University they protested after being ordered to isolate themselves themselves, as long as teachers and their families were not bound by such restrictions.
One of the 19 authors of the study is Zhang Wenhong, a specialist in infectious diseases and one of the leading voices in China on Covid-19, who opposes excessive blockades. The study “provides evidence of improving public health strategies Covid-19” to avoid huge medical resources, the authors write, without giving specific recommendations.
The findings were consistent with other studies that concluded that Omicron was generally less severe than the Delta variant, although it could be deadly to some people. However, this sparked a heated debate on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform similar to Twitter. In the three days since the study was published, the hashtag for the report received more than 98 million views and 10,000 discussions on the platform.
Some people questioned the need to block to contain the virus after seeing the data. One person noted that there are no serious illnesses for low-risk people and that the proportion of people who have developed a serious illness is less than one tenth of one percent.
“But we paid such a high price (materially and mentally),” the man wrote, adding that the policy of zero Covid seemed “ignorant.”
Proponents of China’s firm stance saw the study as a political issue. A Weibo post accused Dr. Zhang published the article to justify Shanghai’s initial approach to limiting the virus to more targeted restrictions. This strategy was abandoned in favor of a complete blockade in April and May.
Claire Fu contributed to research.