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China’s Leading Health Advisor Criticizes ‘Zero-COVID’ Protocols, Gets Censored

A native of New York, Alina has a Bachelors degree in Corporate Communications from Baruch College and writes about human rights' related issues, politics, tech and society.
Published: April 22, 2022
Zhong Nanshan (L), China's leading medical expert, receives an award from Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) during a ceremony to honor distinguished guests in the fight against COVID-19 in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People on September 8, 2020. (Image: NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP via Getty Images)

In a controversial turn of events, China’s top COVID-19 expert and advisor Zhong Nanshan said his country cannot continue pursuing its unyielding “Zero-COVID” strategy, and should instead work towards “reopening to bring social and economic development back to normal, and adapt to a global reopening.” 

Zhong published an article titled “Strategies for reopening in the forthcoming COVID-19 era in China’‘ on April 6. The piece was published in the English-language National Science Review journal, and a since-deleted Chinese translated copy of the article was made available on several of China’s state-media websites. 

Two days after being released, the Chinese translation was completely scrubbed from the mainland internet.

“China needs to reopen so as to normalize socio-economic development and adapt to global reopening. Prolonged dynamic zeroing cannot be pursued in the long run,” Zhong wrote with co-author Guan Weijie, an associate researcher with the State Key Laboratory of Respiratory Disease in Guangzhou city.


Dubbed ‘China’s Fauci’

The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) censoring of Zhong is particularly noteworthy as he was previously hailed as “China’s Fauci” in the early days of the pandemic for pushing the CCP’s stringent anti-epidemic protocols. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci currently serves as the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and is the Chief Medical Advisor to sitting U.S. President Joe Biden. Fauci also served as a lead member of the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force under the presidency of former U.S. President Donald Trump.

Zhong also recommended a wider rollout of vaccines and rapid COVID tests in order to “reopen the country in an orderly and effective manner.” Both Zhong and his co-author Guan Weijie called for quicker development of drugs and therapies to reduce the rate of severe illness or death as a result of complications from COVID-19. 

“The rapid roll-out of vaccinations, as well as herd immunity, have formed the fundamentals of the ‘total opening’ of some developed countries. This, however, does not necessarily justify rapid and total opening in mainland China,” they wrote.

“Omicron confers a considerably higher mortality risk than seasonal influenza, and would likely result in social instability and the emergence of other novel variants with a greater infectivity.”

Draconian lockdowns 

China’s “Zero-COVD” policy adheres to a “zero tolerance” approach that has seen entire cities locked down for weeks on end — oftentimes if only a handful of new infections are detected. China’s reliance on its homegrown vaccines have also been shown to be largely ineffective at curbing spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

The Chinese regime’s unbending COVID regulations have resulted in many reports of violence and tragedy as residents are sometimes arrested or even beaten if they are found to be breaking quarantine. Others reported family members dying outside hospitals as they waited for medical attention. 

Local authorities across the country have also stringently upheld orders, which have included disinfection theatrics, draconian lockdowns, mass testing and travel restrictions.

China’s largest and most populous city of Shanghai was locked down for over three weeks as authorities aimed to completely eradicate the pandemic from within its borders. Health personnel in the city shut down businesses and public transportation, and confined most of its 26 million residents to their homes since March 28. 

Over 20,000 daily new infections

The current outbreak in Shanghai is considered the worst since the pandemic first began in the central Chinese city of Wuhan over two years ago. 

On April 21, the Chinese government claimed 29,772 new COVID cases across the country — out of which 3,723 were reportedly symptomatic. Shanghai accounted for 95 percent of the country’s total tally. Since the beginning of April, China has reported over 20,000 new infections everyday. 

Outside of Shanghai, hundreds of millions of Chinese, amounting to a fourth of the country’s 1.4 billion people, remain under some degree of lockdown — increasing the downward pressure on an already-struggling Chinese economy, and severely impacting the mental health and social life of residents across the country.