China’s coronavirus-free approach, health care system, resumption plans

Volunteers in protective suits sort through trash outside an apartment building at the College of Arts and Information Engineering of Dalian Polytechnic University on the Zhuanghe campus on November 15, 2021 in Dalian, Liaoning province, China. As of Sunday in Dalian, more than 60 students on the Zhuanghe campus have been diagnosed with COVID-19 cases.

VCG | Visual China Group | Getty Images

China is moving forward with its zero-Covid approach, according to US investment bank Jefferies, and there are signs that it will not give up that position anytime soon.

From the United States to vast areas of Europe and Asia, many countries are learning to live with the virus and have begun to lift most of the restrictions.

Countries initially took an aggressive approach through massive blockages and severe social restrictions, but they gradually abandoned this strategy as the highly contagious delta variant spread quickly and blockages became less effective.

But China has not relaxed its ultra-strict zero-exposure strategy for the Covid virus, which includes massive blockages even if only one or a few cases are identified. It also includes extensive testing, tightly controlled or closed borders, and robust contact tracing systems and quarantine mandates.

More recently, visitors to Shanghai Disneyland had to take Covid tests to get out. This demand came after the authorities learned that close contacts of an infected person had visited the park a week before.

“Closed until further notice”

The Asian giant is now grappling with the spread of its largest deltoid Covid outbreak. according to Reuters.

“China… seems to have handled COVID very well, but the Delta option poses new challenges. In addition to curbing domestic cases, “preventing imported cases” is a key part of the strategy, ”Jefferies analysts said in a November 18 note.

“As a result, it looks like a country that has no immediate plans to discover and live with the virus. News of the sudden lockdowns continues and it looks like China is closed until further notice. ”

Jeffreys highlighted three things that hint at China’s lack of immediate plans to abandon its zero-tolerance approach.

1. Passport renewal

The passport renewal data suggests authorities have not planned outbound travel or tourism for some time, Jeffries said. The number of new issues and renewals of Chinese passports dropped by more than 95% in the first half of this year compared to the same period in 2019, the bank said.

“This could indicate that the central government is trying to restrict people’s ability to leave China,” Jeffreys said.

The note also points to recent comments from China’s National Immigration Administration, which said those who do not have an urgent need to travel abroad should put their plans on hold. Issuing or renewing passports will only be a priority for Chinese citizens studying or working overseas, authorities said.

By comparison, US passport issuance declined 43% from 2019 to 2020 and grew 32% in the first half of this year compared to last year.

2. Special quarantine rooms.

According to Jeffreys, Chinese city governments are encouraged to build 20 rooms for every 10,000 citizens in special or refurbished premises to accommodate those arriving from overseas.

Guangzhou is already phasing out hotels and is due to open a new facility with more than 5,000 rooms, while other provinces are “quickly following,” Jeffries said.

“Special quarantine facilities under construction suggest that the incoming quarantine may take longer,” Jeffreys said.

3. China’s healthcare system

China’s medical infrastructure may not be prepared for higher cases if borders are opened, or treating Covid as an endemic disease, Jeffries said.

“China has significantly fewer hospital beds and doctors than many other countries. Its three-tier health care system barely survived the first wave of the COVID outbreak in early 2020, analysts say.

Jeffries said his three-tier health care system includes city-level hospitals, district clinics and rural health services provided by village doctors. The report notes that the number of hospital beds and doctors in rural areas is half that in cities, per 1000 people.

“Poor medical infrastructure in rural areas makes it difficult to detect COVID cases at an early stage and, as a result, leads to massive outbreaks in cities,” the bank said in a statement. With 36% of China’s population living in rural areas, “a closed border is the simplest solution to prevent the collapse of the health care system,” Jeffreys said.

In addition, China’s health care costs are “significantly” lower than many other countries. “This could mean that the Chinese authorities are worried that a major national outbreak could hit their health care system,” the bank concluded.

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