Faced with delta variants, abandoning the “Zero Covid” strategy

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On Wednesday, August 12, 2020, police wearing protective masks talked to motorists at a checkpoint in the Mumbai area of ​​Auckland, New Zealand.

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

London-New Zealand has become the latest country to abandon the zero Covid strategy. Facts have proved that now this highly contagious delta variant is dominant, and this virus is more difficult to stop.

After adopting one of the most stringent methods in the world to try to control the spread of Covid-19, New Zealand announced on Monday that the country will no longer try to eliminate all Covid cases.

This zero-Covid strategy has also been adopted by countries such as China and Taiwan, and involves strict lockdowns (even if only one or a few cases are detected) and extensive testing, tightly controlled or closed borders, as well as strong contact tracing systems and quarantine orders .

The move was made after the city of Auckland’s lockdown failed to prevent the virus from facing the more toxic variant of Delta. It is estimated that it is 60% more transmissible than the alpha variant originally discovered at the end of 2020, and it itself usurped the previous, less infectious version of the virus.

As we all know, New Zealand is very strict in dealing with Covid.Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern put the entire country under strict lockdown in August After a suspected case of Covid caused by a delta variant (the country’s first coronavirus case in six months) was reported in Auckland.

But on Monday, Ardern said that the city’s blockade will gradually relax and that the country’s strategy for dealing with the new crown virus is changing.

Ardern said at a press conference: “For this epidemic, it is clear that long-term strict restrictions have not allowed us to reduce the number of cases to zero.” “But it’s okay. Elimination is important because we don’t have a vaccine. Now we Yes, so we can start to change the way we do things.”

Ardern said that it is important for the country to maintain strict control, but it is still necessary to “contain and control the virus as much as possible, and at the same time we transition from only using strictly restricted places to using strictly restricted places. Vaccines in daily public health measures.”

Why it doesn’t work

This is the first time New Zealand has publicly expressed its intention to abandon the zero Covid strategy after its neighboring countries Australia has also abandoned zero tolerance, or “Covid zero” approach In early September, it was said that it had shifted to a position of “learning and coexisting with the virus.”

Similar to New Zealand, Australia’s decision to abandon this strategy was made after Melbourne imposed a strict lockdown to quell the epidemic there.

At the time, the Governor of Victoria, Daniel Andrews, pointed out, “We have done everything for this, but now we are very clear that we will not reduce these numbers, but will increase them.”

Victoria Police patrolled St Kilda Beach in Melbourne, Australia on October 3, 2020. As Victoria enters the second step of the government’s reopening road map, starting Monday, September 28, the coronavirus restrictions across Melbourne have been slightly relaxed.

Darian Trainor | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Experts were not surprised by the shift in strategy and pointed out that the spread of delta variants made this method futile.

Lawrence Young, a virologist and professor of molecular oncology at the university, said: “It’s no surprise that New Zealand has abandoned the’zero coronavirus’ strategy-the highly infectious delta variant has changed the rules of the game and meant eliminating The strategy is no longer feasible.” Warwick told CNBC on Monday.

“This does not mean that New Zealand and Australia’s strong methods of responding to the pandemic-strict border restrictions, quarantine measures and strong contact tracing-have not worked, but continued stringent restrictions are harming individuals and society,” he Say.

He added that as the rest of the world opens up, zero tolerance policies will become more difficult, but emphasized that this does not mean that people should not be vigilant. “We need to do everything we can to support the global rollout of vaccines to prevent the spread and mutation of the virus.”

Attempts to completely suppress the spread of Covid-19 are often questioned by experts, but in countries with slower vaccination rates, lockdown measures can slow the spread of the virus even if it cannot eradicate the spread of the virus.

Defending the lockdown in Auckland on Monday, Ardern said that the pursuit of a zero Covid strategy was the “right choice and the only option” for Auckland, and the vaccination rate was still very low, when only 25% of Aucklanders were fully vaccinated.

Now, seven weeks later, she said that 52% of Aucklanders were fully vaccinated and 84% received one dose. Clinical data shows that comprehensive vaccination against Covid-19 is very effective in protecting people from severe Covid infection, hospitalization and death.

Zero Covid believers

However, China, Taiwan and Hong Kong still adopt the zero-Covid strategy, but no country has shown any signs of giving up. Other Asian economies that have adopted a similar approach include Macau, Singapore, South Korea and Vietnam.

Data shows that this strategy helps to keep the number of cases and deaths in the region well below those of Europe and the United States, the latter being the country with the largest number of Covid deaths in the world, with more than 703,000 deaths.

On Monday, Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center said, Covid-19 zero new local cases and five imported cases, Marking the fourth consecutive day without local infections.

on the same day, Hong Kong has also recorded four new cases (all imported, Continue the trend of recent weeks), and China reported 26 new confirmed cases of infection on MondayThird, although the accuracy of China’s data during the pandemic has been questioned, all of these have been classified as imported cases.

Experts in the region said that there are good reasons not to abandon the zero Covid strategy, especially when vaccination rates are uneven.

Professor David Xu, The Chinese University of Hong Kong Committee of Experts This suggests that the government, he told CNBC, that Hong Kong will not reconsider its zero tolerance strategy for Covid-19 until the vaccination rate is higher, making it one of the strategies to “coexist with the virus”.

“Compared with Singapore, [the] In the United Kingdom and other Western countries, the overall vaccination rate in Hong Kong is too low (67% one dose, 62.9% of the population completely vaccinates two doses) to accept viral infections. The vaccination rate for people 70 years of age or younger is about 30%,” he said.

“If we coexist with the virus, many unvaccinated elderly people will get serious illnesses and our healthcare system will collapse.”

The Economist Intelligence Unit pointed out in a report in July that it expects that the zero Covid market in Asia will maintain strict border controls throughout 2021 and will not relax until mass vaccination is achieved in early 2022.

“The number of deaths in Asia’s’corona-free’ countries is much lower than that of their global counterparts, and the economic impact is not so severe. The recession in Asia in 2020 is much shallower than in other regions,” it said, noting that “if the world in other regions Taking a similar approach, Zero Coronavirus may prove to be a sustainable strategy. However, with the reopening of the global economy, it is now possible to weaken rather than support economic activity.”

Nevertheless, EIU pointed out that the final policy adopted by the zero-epidemic countries will still be more conservative than the current policies in North America and Europe. It said: “This method may be aimed at “low Covid”, and the methods currently used in Japan and South Korea can be used as potential models.

EUI believes that mainland China and Taiwan are the most advantageous economies to maintain a zero-Covid strategy because they are less dependent on cross-border capital and talent flows.

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