Focus on zero-Covid leaves China weak to flu epidemic


Chinese well being officers are warning that the nation’s concentrate on eradicating Covid-19 has left it unprepared for a potential flu epidemic that dangers killing tens of hundreds of residents.

At President Xi Jinping’s course, public well being coverage has prioritised Covid management over all different ailments no matter their severity.

“China has invested so many health resources in taming Covid that the authority lacks capacity to deal with other infectious diseases,” stated Yanzhong Huang, a fellow on the Council for Foreign Relations in New York.

Some well being authorities are significantly involved a few flu outbreak in southern China. One official in Shantou, a metropolis in southern Guangdong province, the place seasonal flu is spreading, instructed the Financial Times that the native authorities was nonetheless prioritising Covid prevention over flu pictures, despite the fact that it had been months since there had been a confirmed Covid case within the metropolis.

“We have limited resources and must invest them in areas of the biggest importance,” stated the official, who requested to not be recognized due to the sensitivity that surrounds public well being issues.

When Xi chaired a gathering of the Politburo Standing Committee, the Chinese Communist get together’s strongest physique, in May, he warned that “we must struggle against speech and acts that distort, question or reject anti-epidemic guidelines and policy”.

According to official knowledge, the variety of Chinese flu-shot recipients hit a document 57.7mn individuals in 2020 earlier than plunging to only 2.1mn final yr. In distinction, greater than 1.1bn individuals have acquired at the very least two Covid jabs.

Speaking at a seminar on June 17, Wang Dayan, head of the Chinese Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s influenza division, warned that the extremely contagious Influenza A virus risked placing the well being system below “significant pressure” by the top of the yr.

Health consultants are additionally fearful that the frequent lockdowns employed throughout the nation have undermined individuals’s pure immunity to flu and different infectious ailments.

The social isolation, which might final for months in excessive lockdowns such because the one imposed on Shanghai this yr, reduces individuals’s publicity to routine diseases, which helps them push back probably harmful flu strains.

“The upcoming flu season may be more severe than previous waves as a lack of exposure to old viruses makes people’s immune system less able to fend off new ones,” stated Jin Dongyan, a virologist on the University of Hong Kong.

Xi’s administration has proven no signal that it will average its strict zero-Covid coverage even within the face of mounting proof that the virus’s virulence was waning. On June 18, the Chinese CDC printed a examine of 33,000 individuals hospitalised after contracting the Omicron variant. Only 22 of the sufferers turned severely unwell.

Various educational research put the nation’s influenza-related mortality, led by older individuals, at 90,000 to 200,000 a yr. That compares with simply over 5,200 official Covid deaths from the pandemic that erupted greater than two years in the past.

Additional reporting by Tom Mitchell in Singapore