Editor's note: This is a letter from Bereket Sisay, a journalist and political commentator of African affairs, sharing his experience in China in the post-pandemic era.
It's now almost two months since I came to China for five-months of professional journalism training. I came to China with a mixed feeling of contentment regarding my life in the second largest economy in the world while feeling suspicious regarding China's dynamic zero-COVID policy. I had fears about how I passed through all the required processes, doubts about my life in a strictly controlled environment, and so forth, equally contemplating questions in my mind.
My whole process of coming to China, like all international travelers here, began with quarantine in a hotel apartment for seven days in my home country, Ethiopia. Then, after I managed to get all three consecutive negative results and fulfill all the required criteria, I was granted permission to board. Upon my arrival in Guangzhou, the capital city of south China's Guangdong Province, as part of the mandatory pandemic prevention policy, I had to be quarantined for another 10 consecutive days.
The health workers, who were wrapped head-to-toe in protective gear, received me from the airport. After they checked my temperature and carried out a quick COVID-19 test, they took me straight to the hotel. Although I was aware of the quarantine, my initial assumption was that I would be staying in a low-or medium-level standard hotel with prison cell-like accommodation. Nevertheless, I ended up in a five-star hotel with high standards of quality.
I couldn't believe that I had found myself enjoying a luxurious stay there. I remember, since my first day of arrival at the hotel, that people were welcoming and hospitable. The situation was normal and not as bad as I had previously assumed. In some instances, I was in an even better situation. Then, I started the needed oral-swab and temperature testing during the quarantine period. Finally, after I received word that the whole COVID-19 test results were negative, I acquired the Beijing health-kit pass code for travel to Beijing.
After a three-hour flight from Guangzhou to Beijing, I took a car to head to my diplomatic compound, where I stayed for the whole of my training session. My car-travel gave me the opportunity to witness life in the streets of Beijing in the post-pandemic era for the first time. Beijing was vibrant, and life continued as usual. The only difference was that people were wearing masks. I'm still in Beijing, making frequent travel and visits. Life is still normal and going in a linear fashion without any spiraling downward.
My stay debunked the Western media's disinformation over China's pandemic protection and its negative impacts on the people's daily lives. People have not complained about the pandemic policy; rather, they have been cooperative and helpful in the overall success of pandemic containment. I have not come across those residents being forcibly removed from their homes and placed in hotels or quarantine facilities if someone in their neighborhood tests positive for the coronavirus as I expected.
People are actually living in a very safe environment, and I would say that China has been able to better contain the pandemic. Through this policy China has saved many lives that would otherwise have been lost or exposed to suffering for a long illness. If China had not been going through this pandemic policy, the country would have ended up in a grim reality given the dangerous nature of the virus.
In addition, China has been registering robust economic growth despite sweeping lockdowns across the country. Despite many projections that measures such as stay-at-home orders would have impacted consumer spending and compounded supply chain issues, the economy has sustained itself well. Yet, the Chinese government has been relaxing some of the restrictions put on international inbound travelers. This move has been hailed as a big step toward easing pandemic controls and opening up. Nevertheless, the Chinese government has repeatedly expressed that its stance on efforts to contain the pandemic is firm and unchangeable.
The future is still uncertain, with the restrictions either going to be eased or more restricted. It will likely rest on the progress made so far and the possible impacts of the lingering pandemic. But, pragmatically, China has shown the ability to contain pandemics. Of course, there might be some flaws throughout the process, but it does not prevent the model from being one of the best health instruments in dealing with public health threats.
However, China alone can't defeat the pandemic or lessen its spread unless global efforts are joined together and an effort to control the pandemic is augmented. In some countries, pandemic prevention efforts are almost decreasing while exposing many lives at risk. The World Health Organization is still reminding member countries that we are still in a pandemic, and I therefore recommend that countries give some sort of attention to the pandemic. It is good to remember that prevention is less costly than medication and far more important than hustling with economic woes as a result of the pandemic.
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