A leading figure in the creation of China’s management policy for Covid-19, implied in comments to state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) that the country’s ‘dynamic zero-Covid’ policy could continue beyond the first quarter next year.
Liang Wannian, who has been a head official on the National Health Commission’s Covid response expert team, said – in response to a specific question from a CCTV journalist – there was no timetable for easing the policy, even subsequent to the so-called ‘Two Sessions’ gatherings next year.
That was a reference to the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress, the country’s legislative body, and that of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, an advisory body. The gatherings are usually held every March in Beijing.
Two Macau scholars recently told GGRAsia that the Chinese authorites showed no sign of significantly easing their “dynamic zero-Covid” policy. According to one of them, the policy may persist into next year, with the potential for continued impact on Macau’s casino sector.
Official Chinese media outlets, including People’s Daily and Xinhua News Agency, have recently published articles mentioning the need to stick to ‘dynamic zero-Covid’.
A People’s Daily editorial on the topic was headlined: “No Lying Flat, nor Lying Down to Win”, a reference to a Chinese saying on the need for perseverance in tackling a problem.
The term “dynamic” is understood to be an indication by the mainland authorities of the need for mass-testing and if necessary lockdowns, but on a rolling basis, depending on when and where outbreaks occur.
Some investment analysts covering Macau gaming had recently mentioned the possibility the policy might ease after the National Congress of the ruling Communist Party, an event that begins in Beijing on Sunday.
In the CCTV interview broadcast on Wednesday, Mr Liang – an epidemiologist and executive vice dean at Tsinghua University’s Vanke School of Public Health, in Beijing, said that the authorities could not commit to a defined schedule for any policy change.
He added that for such steps to be considered, additional work was needed, including increasing among the elderly the rate of Covid-19 vaccination.
In a Wednesday article, the Global Times, an English-language Chinese newspaper with a reputation for reporting the latest information on Chinese policy and the thinking of the country’s leadership, cited Lei Zhenglong, an official from the National Health Commission, referring to three “cannots” in relation to Covid-19 management.
What China terms ‘anti-epidemic measures’ “cannot be simplified, risk regions cannot be expanded and control measures cannot be replaced with static management”, the outlet cited the official as indicating.
The article clarified this meant second, that restrictions should be lifted in regions that have met anti-epidemic requirements; and third that “static management” – complete lockdowns – should be avoided if possible, in preference for constant vigilance.
The official said that the implementation of what were termed “four early” practices – early detection, early reporting, early confirmation, and early quarantine – were key.
The goal was to control outbreaks at an early date and on a small scale with precise measures. The official acknowledged that due to the nature of Omicron, it was difficult to detect rapidly cases of that variant. It was understood to be a reference to the fact infection may often be asymptomatic.
National Health Commission data released on Thursday indicated that the daily number of confirmed cases across the Chinese mainland was 249 and asymptomatic cases stood at 1,010.
To date, mainland China remains the only place to have a largely quarantine-free travel arrangement with Macau. The Macau government has stated on several occasions that its Covid-19 prevention policy is in line with mainland China’s.
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