— The Late Show (@colbertlateshow) October 6, 2022
There were 300,000 fewer COVID deaths and 650,000 fewer hospitalizations among seniors because of vaccines, according to a new HHS report. https://t.co/9PMiWhPieH
— ABC News (@ABC) October 10, 2022
Chinese cities were imposing fresh lockdowns and travel restrictions after the number of new daily COVID-19 cases tripled during a weeklong holiday, ahead of a major Communist Party meeting in Beijing next week. https://t.co/LEyLWr0pXy
— The Associated Press (@AP) October 10, 2022
With COVID-19 increasingly tamed, governments across Asia have been winding down some of the world’s strictest control measures. In September, Taiwan announced that it was reopening its borders and phasing out its quarantine policies; South Korea lifted its outdoor mask mandate and scrapped mandatory COVID-19 testing for inbound travelers. On October 11, Japan will end a pre-departure test requirement for travelers who have received at least one vaccine booster and fully reopen its borders for the first time since 2020. Even Hong Kong, which for more than two years had emulated mainland China in maintaining stringent border controls, has decided to end all hotel quarantine requirements for international arrivals. For all these countries and territories, the pivot to a lighter, more flexible approach has been driven by the growing recognition that COVID-19 is now a manageable endemic disease and that harsh population-level containment has come at a very high price.
Amid this rapid normalization, however, China has instead doubled down on its all-encompassing “zero COVID” strategy. In contrast to almost every other country in the world, China continues to pursue stringent border controls, aggressive isolation of close contacts, sudden closures of airports and public spaces, and snap lockdowns of neighborhoods and even entire municipalities. Having staked enormous political capital on zero COVID, China’s leadership is loath to change course—particularly on the eve of the all-important 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party this month, where President Xi Jinping is set to have his 10-year rule extended. In city after city, officials are pursuing excessively harsh measures in an effort to avoid any outbreaks that might embarrass the government.
Beijing’s intransigence has come at an escalating cost. Prolonged lockdowns of millions of people in major cities such as Shanghai have not only devastated China’s economy—which is now expected to significantly fall short of growth targets—but also provoked rising social discontent. The Chinese government’s failures to implement more effective health policies, meanwhile, such as authorizing the use of mRNA vaccines and prioritizing the elderly in its vaccination campaign, have meant that the population remains needlessly vulnerable to future outbreaks. So the government faces a growing dilemma. On the one hand, its zero-COVID strategy is sufficiently unpopular that few government officials are prepared to publicly endorse its long-term existence, and international pressure to abandon the policy is mounting. On the other hand, political considerations and the lack of a clear alternative have prevented Beijing from moving away from it…
Despite growing evidence that zero COVID is doing far more harm than good, the Chinese government has important motives for clinging to it. First and foremost is the potential health crisis that relaxing the approach could entail. After two and a half years of zero-tolerance policies, Beijing has created a situation in which a very high percentage of its population has never been exposed to the virus. According to official figures, China thus far has accumulated 996,000 infections. Even taking into account the potential problem of underreporting—which is not a major concern in view of China’s centralized PCR testing system—this figure shows that only a very small fraction of its population has been infected and therefore carries some natural immunity. In fact, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) itself has acknowledged what it calls, “China’s nearly unique situation of having only vaccine-induced immunity.”
But the vaccine picture is equally concerning. Although as of March 2022, nearly 90 percent of the Chinese population had received two doses of China’s non-mRNA vaccines, studies now estimate that about six months after the administration of the second dose, the antibodies triggered by these vaccines drop to a level that is considered low or even undetectable. Because of this immunity gap, Chinese officials have reason to fear that a policy relaxation could be followed by a surge of COVID-19 cases that would quickly overwhelm the country’s health-care system. At the extreme, this could lead to large numbers of deaths and consequent societal instability.
Although such a worst-case scenario may be unlikely, it cannot be ruled out, especially because the health-care system remains fragile in rural areas, and China has a relatively large percentage of elderly people who are not fully vaccinated. (Perhaps because of the false sense of security that zero-COVID policies have created, the elderly have not been prioritized for vaccines and boosters. Notably, among Chinese who are 60 or older, the two-dose vaccination rate is now 85.6 percent, and the booster rate is just 67.8 percent—both admittedly lower than figures for the same cohort in the United States.)…
However, the only solutions offered are more of the same: Do like we did! Break eggs for that omlette!
Having held to their strategy for so long, China’s leaders face a hard choice. They know they will need to wind down the policy to put the country on a better economic footing, but they fear it could lead to a larger public health breakdown. Armed with a well-planned exit strategy, however, this dire outcome can be avoided. First, the government can prepare the public for a pivot by changing the way it talks about the pandemic. China’s leaders would have to tell the truth about the severity of the virus and the treatments available for it and allow the media to encourage coexistence with COVID-19. This transition could be made easier if the World Health Organization announces that it no longer considers the disease a “public health emergency of international concern.” By recognizing that the acute phase of the pandemic is over, such a declaration would offer Beijing an indisputable scientific rationale for shifting its approach.
To prevent the Chinese health-care system from being overwhelmed, the government can and should enforce triage measures that have worked in many other countries. These would include ensuring that only the most severe cases are treated in hospitals while people with minor or asymptomatic cases recover at home, or if conditions do not allow that, in makeshift quarantine centers. The government should also phase out its COVID-19 health QR code, which is used to demonstrate a person’s risk of infection in real time. This would entail abolishing the centralized, state-controlled mass PCR testing and encouraging the use of at-home rapid-test kits.
To minimize fear and panic whenever there is a spike in cases, the government could stop providing daily updates on the number of new infections and deaths. In addition, rather than spending billions of dollars on enforcing its zero-COVID policies, Beijing should scale up access to more effective Omicron-specific vaccines and therapeutic treatments. A nationwide vaccination campaign should be introduced as soon as possible to ensure that more than 90 percent of the people over 65 and a majority of the country’s population receive an mRNA booster shot. (As the October 16 opening of the Party Congress draws near, the government has begun to show signs that it is taking the vaccination problem more seriously: In early October, China CDC Weekly published an article calling for the immediate vaccination of the remaining 10 percent of the population.)
With such measures in place, a relaxation of policy by the Chinese government would lead to a significant increase of COVID cases. But a well-designed exit strategy can prevent the viral wave from leading to a mass die-off. Assuming 10 percent of the population is infected in a short period, with a 0.1 percent case fatality ratio, about 140,000 people, most of them elderly people with a chronic condition, might succumb to COVID. That would be less than twice the annual deaths from seasonal influenza, and China’s health-care system would be able to withstand the outbreak. The economy would be able to get back on track, and Chinese people would learn to coexist with the virus, like their counterparts in the rest of the world…
A large network of African scientists has analyzed the first 100,000 #SARSCoV2 genomic sequences from the continent, characterizing the pandemic’s progression and highlighting the dispersal patterns of Variants of Concern, including Delta and #Omicron: https://t.co/S9coStNidJ pic.twitter.com/d88IIjG7Nf
— Science Magazine (@ScienceMagazine) October 10, 2022
#LongCovid can impact the brain via multiple pathways, some more common than others
3.) Neuroinvasive infection—rare
4.) *Reactivation of latent herpesviruses*
5.) Clots/microvascular disease
6.) Neural circuit dysfunction—brain fog ⬇️ https://t.co/NvAPLXk8Kw
— delthia ricks 🔬 (@DelthiaRicks) October 11, 2022
2/ "When that happens, we will have to shift back to universal masking. Having a policy that changes back & forth is confusing to healthcare personnel & erodes trust. Furthermore, rising #COVID cases could lead to healthcare worker shortages, a situation we all want to avoid.” pic.twitter.com/EYSO1npfEF
— Laurie Garrett (@Laurie_Garrett) October 10, 2022
"Please, I am urging you, go get this new bivalent booster," urges @chrislhayes, as a new study shows that Republicans had higher excess death rates from covid – after vaccines became available. pic.twitter.com/OafuW6Iz9Y
— All In with Chris Hayes (@allinwithchris) October 8, 2022
In case you’re wondering what populates when you search “vaccine” on TikTok ?? pic.twitter.com/vaxfZTz8DH
— mallory demille ?? (@this_is_mallory) October 9, 2022
?? Yankee Candle reviews indicate that COVID is about surge again pic.twitter.com/b6j7qhaFob
— Dr. Jorge Caballero stands with ???? (@DataDrivenMD) October 9, 2022
ICYMI: "For every 100,000 new COVID-19 cases per week, he found, “no smell” reviews increased by a quarter of a percentage point in the next week."https://t.co/vD3icNxbn5
— Dr. Jorge Caballero stands with ???? (@DataDrivenMD) October 9, 2022
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