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While the rest of the world forgets about covid, China has returned to the starting point: March 2020

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Collective cries from the balconies of the buildings, lack of food and medicine; displacement of asymptomatic to quarantine zoneschildren separated from their parents for a mere positive, workers sleeping in their offices, half-built confinement centers and sleeping patients in cardboard boxes); unrest; looting, attempts at protests. What is happening in Shanghai and other parts of china is more than a lockdown.

More than a ‘normal’ confinement. It is a journey back in time to March 2020. Perhaps not in deaths (if we pay attention to the official data from Beijing), but in everything else. Shanghai, China’s largest city, has been locked down since April 5. In fact, some parts of the city (where COVID cases started to emerge) have been a week or two longer. The 26 million residents of the city have had to take up to six diagnostic tests these days and are prohibited from leaving their homes (even to go buy food or medicine).

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Many areas of the city are holding up thanks to home delivery services. Distributions that are becoming scarcer and less regular. Above all, because the distribution chain is broken: the municipal government itself recognizes that they did not have a clear plan of how they are going to endure until the figures improve. Figures that, on the other hand, are not particularly dramatic (compared to what Western countries have suffered): we are talking about 130,000 infections and only one person in serious condition.

How has China gotten to this point? That’s the big question. The People’s Republic of China has enormous technical, scientific and organizational capacity. It is not only the ‘know-how’ about the pandemic that the closure and management of Wuhan gave them; is that China has its own vaccines and enough ancillary industry to manufacture the tests and drugs needed to address the problems associated with an outbreak of that size. In fact, Shanghai has managed to get around the confinement for two years. What happened?

The failure of #COVIDZero. For months, COVID Zero (the prioritization of the containment and elimination of COVID) was the strategy to follow. Countries like Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, or, yes, China, put in huge lockdowns to keep SARS-CoV-2 out of circulation. New Zealand, for example. He came to confine an entire city for a single case. In other words, they focused all their efforts on reducing the cases of infection to zero, preventing the virus from circulating through their societies.

However, as it became clear that the virus was not going to go away (as SARS-CoV-1 did), the COVID Zero strategy turned into a trap. In the summer of 2021, as the world slowly opened up thanks to the vaccine, CovidZero countries[stillhadtoresorttostrictlockdownThuswhatseemedlikeareasonablepricetoavoidthehorrorthatEuropeexperiencedinMarch2020turnedintoaracetonowhere:anagonizingwayofdelayingthearrivalofthevirusThisiswhatweareseeingintheAsiangiant[seguíanteniendoquerecurriralconfinamientoestrictoAsíloqueparecíaunpreciorazonableporesquivarelhorrorquesevivióenmarzode2020enEuropaseconvirtióenunacarrerahacianingúnlado:enunaformaagónicaderetrasarlallegadadelvirusEsloqueestamosviendoenelgiganteasiático

Vaccine problems. In the toughest moments of the pandemic and in a clear geopolitical strategy, China took out its vaccines. Not only that: he watered the world with millions of vaccines.

The problem is that this allowed us to have independent reports on the actual performance of these injectables. And throughout 2021 those reports said Chinese vaccines were clearly performing worse than Western ones. These were vaccines that, although they protected against serious illness and death, were not very effective against contagion (we are talking about efficacies around or below 50%).

But that is not the most problematic. Apparently, acquired immunity declines very quickly. This would explain, at least in part, that despite having more than 85% of its population fully vaccinated, Beijing has been confining parts of the country for months to try to stop Omicron: it is the only way they have to avoid unleashing a ‘tsunami’ epidemiological.

What awaits China? The Shanghai situation is a race against time. The runs run; at a very high cost, but they work. Just the same day that the looting began in the city, Jilin (in the northwest of the country) announced that it had managed to put an end to the outbreak that affected it. Jilin needed 33 days of strict confinement. No one is clear about what can happen in Shanghai at that time if the situation is not redirected.

However, this is only the most striking (and tragic) case of a problem that goes much further: when the Shanghai lockdown passes, there will be another and another and another. Without the epidemiological wall of infected and vaccinated, the virus will continue to enter and leave the country without stopping. And, what is worse, without a clear strategy to stop doing it. It is not that China lives in March 2020, it is that it lives trapped in a labyrinth from which it does not know how to get out.

Image | DPA Germany/GTRES

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