It all began in Wuhan. Covid clusters are now being reported in a number of major Chinese cities and provinces. Infections from Beijing to Shanghai, Hainan, Macau, Xinjiang, and many other places, as well as mass testing and rolling lockdowns, are exposing the failure of China’s zero-Covid policy. It begs the question, are China’s vaccination figures accurate, and are Chinese-made vaccines like Sinovac ineffective?
The latest infections have been reported from the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). A sudden increase in cases has forced the authorities to close down some parts of Tibet while conducting mass testing in the region, which is also a tourist destination. Meanwhile, Hainan Province is dealing with its worst COVID-19 outbreak in history, stranding thousands of tourists. Tibet has been following a ‘dynamic zero COVID-19’ policy, with only one symptomatic case in January 2020 and no COVID-19 cases for over 900 days. However, things are starting to fall apart.
While the rest of the world has reopened, China maintains its grip on the virus. Because of the new outbreaks, Shigatse (Tibet’s second largest city) has been closed for three days, with various events canceled and people barred from entering or leaving the city. Several religious, entertainment, and tourist attractions have also been closed. Tibet’s famed Potala Palace, a major tourist attraction, has also been closed indefinitely.
Tibet’s economy is heavily reliant on tourism, and these new measures are bound to have a negative impact. Several experts and the World Health Organization have chastised China for its tough stance in the face of the virus’s changing nature. China reported 828 new domestically transmitted cases on August 8. On Sunday, Lhasa, Tibet’s regional capital, reported 18 new cases, one symptomatic and the rest asymptomatic. ‘ Previously, four cases were discovered in Ngari prefecture’s Burang county. The 22 cases are all related to Shigatse, a city in Tibet with a population of around 800,000 people ‘, Global Times reported the state-run tabloid.
‘The cities of Lhasa and Shigatse are currently conducting the first round of mass testing, and the second round will be conducted on Wednesday,’ it added. Meanwhile, the government in Hainan province is reportedly planning to let tourists leave after two nucleic acid negative certificates within 48 hours, and three for those in low-risk areas, in addition to a general screening for symptoms.
What could be the cause of these failures?
Millions of Chinese people continue to live in poverty and are unwilling or unable to receive vaccinations. There is anecdotal evidence to support this, given that several Arab countries that reported cases in previous waves used China-made vaccines. A lesser-known fact is that many Hong Kong residents received the Pfizer vaccine rather than Chinese vaccines.
Because of the massive population burden, crowd control issues, and governance inconsistencies, Chinese authorities have resorted to the only viable option: rolling mass lockdowns, quarantines, makeshift hospitals, and mass testing. People in poor areas are more vulnerable to infections because they live in densely packed cities, slums, and suburbs. China is aggressively pursuing its failing ‘zero-Covid’ policy in its race to manage headlines. But whether it is successful or not, the world may never know, just as it will never know where the virus originated in 2019, somewhere between a lab and a wet meat market in Wuhan.