The recent abrupt end to China’s “zero-COVID” policy has left many citizens feeling confused and dismayed, unsure how to best protect themselves and their families. There have been reports of Omicron outbreaks in many Chinese cities, long waits at hospitals and clinics, shortages of fever-reducing medicines and home test kits at pharmacies, and backlogs at some mortuaries and crematoriums. The situation has prompted a great deal of online discussion, as netizens trade stories and advice about dealing with COVID symptoms, finding medicine and test kits, or taking care of sick family members. There has also been some debate about whether the central and local governments have done a good job in carrying out the policy switch.
In this now-deleted post to the Quora-like Zhihu.com, Zhihu user @张峰 (Zhang Feng) offers some thoughts in response to the question “What do you think of the government’s lifting of COVID controls?”
Zhang Feng begins by expressing his support for lifting the controls, and notes that China can learn from the experience of other countries, and cities such as Hong Kong, that have moved away from their initial “zero-COVID” policies. He also expresses his disappointment that certain essential preparatory measures seem to have been neglected—for example, increasing the number of ICU beds, diverting minor cases away from hospitals and toward local clinics, ensuring an adequate supply of medications and test kits at pharmacies, and establishing rotas for doctors and medical personnel to avoid understaffing, among others. In the end, he likens the government’s haphazard approach to re-opening to an irresponsible, peevish, destructive child who lashes out when challenged.
The post and all response comments have been scrubbed from Zhihu, but they have been archived on the CDT Chinese site. A partial translation appears below.
So, what’s the current situation in Beijing? The streets are deserted. Why are they deserted? Because no one dares to go outside for fear of being infected. And why are they so afraid of being infected? Because all the pharmacies are sold out of basic medicines, even fever-reducing meds and antigen test kits—is that normal? Folks everywhere are grousing about pharmacies, hospitals, unscrupulous businessmen, and greedy blood-sucking capitalists … I’m not sure whether to describe these folks as kindhearted or dimwitted.
Observing all this, I wonder if everyone else feels the same way that I do. Shouldn’t they have thought of these things [beforehand], shouldn’t they have done something about them? The end result is just …. baffling. It’s like we’re dealing with a rebellious junior-high-school student who has no sense of responsibility, suffers from an extreme level of paranoia, and is completely immersed in the fantasy that he’s the world’s most powerful superhero. He’s so prickly and insecure that when you suggest that he cut down on playing video games and focus on his studies, he smashes the TV set to bits (while you frantically raise your phone in the air so that he doesn’t stomp it underfoot), then he rips out every page from the extracurricular reading, lights a bonfire, and with blue veins practically bursting from his forehead, shouts, “There, are you happy now? Huh? Are you happy now?” [Chinese]
A selection of Zhihu user comments in response to the post are translated below:
tangscu：I agree. They’re fighting a battle they’re completely unprepared for.
loyalty：It’s like they relaxed controls out of sheer spite.
忧郁的臀哈哈：All other countries do is copy us, so why should we bother copying them?
[…] 老鹰抓小鸡：They were so busy locking things down, it’s like they never thought there’d come a day when things would open back up.
团大人：A clever sixth-grade student gets the highest test score in the whole school. He spends three years doing sixth-grade-level work and getting top marks, while all the other students take the entrance exam and move up to junior high school. The clever student finally decides to take the junior high school entrance exam, but discovers that he can only answer sixth-grade-level questions, because he never bothered to prepare for the junior-high-school level questions.
[…] 蜜桃：The way you described it in that last paragraph is so right. That’s exactly how it is.
90后空巢老人：A fitting summary. This whole operation can be summed up in one word: “baffling.”
[…] Jiangx：I don’t think that opening up prompted the outbreak; it was the outbreak that prompted the opening-up.
[…] 骄傲的胖哥：Caught between a rock and a hard place. [Chinese]