Anti-pandemic fight must be scientific: China Daily editorial

A medical worker administers a dose of COVID-19 vaccine to a child at a vaccination site in Panggezhuang town of Daxing district in Beijing, capital of China, Nov 4, 2021. [Photo/Xinhua]

The latest COVID-19 flare-ups on the Chinese mainland have so far shown no signs of easing, with 87 new locally transmitted cases reported on Thursday, according to the National Health Commission. 

Of the new cases, 45 were reported in Heilongjiang province, 23 in Hebei province, and four in the Ningxia Hui autonomous region.

Gansu, Henan, Jiangsu, Shandong, Sichuan and Qinghai provinces, Chongqing and the Inner Mongolia autonomous region also reported new cases. 

The severe pandemic situation has prompted local governments to immediately take prevention and control measures under a zero-tolerance policy, featuring mass testing, targeted lockdowns and travel restrictions.

All this has inevitably disrupted local economies, with the leisure and tourism sectors that were struggling to recover particularly hard hit, as well as people's lives. But this is the price the country has to pay in order to win the fight against the novel coronavirus. As Zhong Nanshan, a respiratory disease expert who helped formulate the country's COVID-19 strategy, noted, "Zero tolerance does indeed cost a lot. But letting the novel coronavirus spread would cost the country even more." He cited examples of some countries where flip-flopping policy has had a far greater impact on people's life.

Yet zero tolerance does not mean local officials can go to extremes regardless of the basic rules and protocols for epidemic prevention. In one county in Jiangxi province, all the traffic lights were switched to red to discourage traffic after only one positive COVID-19 case was reported at a local holiday resort. And a city in Heilongjiang where new cases were detected switched the health code of all its residents, even those who were then outside the city, to yellow, basically making it impossible for them to travel.

Such acts are lazy governance and strain the relations between officials and the public, and may even compromise the fight against the virus. 

Shanghai has set a good example of striking a balance between trying to keep the virus at bay and protecting the interests of residents. 

Shanghai Disneyland was put under temporary lockdown on Sunday evening to cooperate with a COVID-19 investigation, and all tourists and staff had to test negative before leaving. While the nucleic acid tests were being conducted in an orderly manner, the beautiful fireworks show at the park started as usual. More than 33,000 tests were conducted overnight with results all showing negative, and the park reopened two days later. As leading epidemic expert Zhang Wenhong wrote, "the fireworks over Disneyland enable us to see people's calmness when faced with disasters and their confidence in the future."

The pandemic has now become a new normal, and it has to be handled in a systemic, scientific and standardized way.