China should remain vigilant as COVID-19 gets weaker: Top expert
Updated 22:04, 14-Mar-2022
An illustration of Zhang Wenhong, a top expert on infectious diseases in China. /CFP

An illustration of Zhang Wenhong, a top expert on infectious diseases in China. /CFP

It's still too early for China to scrap current COVID-19 control measures despite the disease becoming significantly less life-threatening with the Omicron variant, said a top expert on infectious diseases.  

Prof Zhang Wenhong, head of the National Center for Infectious Diseases in Shanghai, wrote a long Weibo blog early on Monday explaining his opinions on the current surge of COVID-19 cases in China.

Daily cases in the country shot up from less than 200 in early March to more than 3,000 on Saturday, putting pressure on health services.

Shanghai, in east China, long considered a model in COVID-19 control, has recently got hard on prevention measures to catch up with the spread of the Omicron variant.

"If we scrape the control measures right now," he wrote. "A huge number of people will be infected in a short time, which will paralyze the health system, disrupt social order and eventually cause more deaths."

Not afraid

At the same time, Zhang also stressed that current control measures will not last forever.

"It's necessary for China to keep on with the 'dynamic zero-COVID' policy for the time being to contain the Omicron wave," he wrote. "The long-lasting policies should be soft."

Zhang explained why he thinks things will surely get better considering the future.

"The Omicron variant is surely weaker," he wrote in the blog. "The data from Shanghai shows that Omicron's ability to cause severe disease and death is weaker than the common cold."

"We should not be afraid of COVID-19," he wrote. "What should we be afraid of when we have found the right path?"

Necessary steps

Zhang listed several steps he thinks necessary for China to go back to normal, including booster shots among elderly people, better vaccine and vaccination strategy, medicine that can be mass supplied, affordable and widespread home testing kits, and a better process for diagnosis and home quarantine.

In addition, Zhang called for better preparations against a potentially more complex situation like a combination of large amounts of imported cases and local cases. In order to control and prevent such a situation, China needs a more comprehensive system and an abundance of medical resources.

"A few days ago, a journalist asked me why we don't scrap the control measures with all the vaccine shots," Zhang wrote. "How do we do that without all these preparations?" 

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