Zero Covid

China Digs In and Tightens Shanghai Lockdown in Unrelenting Pursuit of Zero Covid

Shanghai officials over the next few days will further restrict access to food and hospitals in the city, the most severe phase of its extended lockdown yet. BBC News has the story.

Commercial food deliveries are not allowed and access to hospitals for all but emergencies must first be approved. Neighbours of COVID-19 cases and others living close by are also being forced into government quarantine facilities. Shanghai is now in its seventh week of city-wide restrictions.

Confirmed cases have fallen significantly from their peak, but authorities have not yet been able to hit the target of what they call “societal zero”, where no cases are reported outside of quarantine facilities.

Despite the tougher measures, Shanghai officials insist that people living in half the city’s districts are now free to leave their homes and walk around.

State media has shown propaganda videos of departing medical workers visiting city landmarks together and taking photographs.

Official notices from local committees of the ruling Communist Party, seen by the BBC, detail several restrictions imposed under what officials call “silent periods” for the next three days. These include only permitting Government food deliveries, not allowing residents to “step out” of their front doors and requiring approval from the committee for anyone other than emergency cases to access hospitals…

The tightened measures come just days after China’s president Xi Jinping re-iterated his commitment to the controversial ‘Zero-Covid’ strategy. In a paper published in the health journal the Lancet earlier this week, senior Chinese health officials said the lockdown would “buy time to vaccinate more people”.

Their comments come after the head of the World Health Organisation called China’s Zero-Covid strategy unsustainable.

“When we talk about Zero-Covid, we don’t think that it’s sustainable, considering the behaviour of the virus now and what we anticipate in the future,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Tuesday at a news conference.

The clip was widely shared on Chinese social media before being blocked by censors. More than two years after COVID-19 first emerged here officials figures show around 90% of the population nationwide has been vaccinated. But only 38% of the more vulnerable – those over 60 – in Shanghai have the full protection [sic] of three vaccinations.

Buy time to vaccinate? How much time do they need, if 16 months isn’t enough?

This lockdown thing is really starting to get out of hand…

Worth reading in full.

Hong Kong Sends Traditional Chinese Medicine to Three Million Residents Telling Them it Works Against COVID-19 – But the Evidence Says No Such Thing

Imagine the joy of three million people in Hong Kong when, this weekend, they received their “United we Fight the Virus” kits. It is not clear why the remaining four million were deprived of these kits but, given that I know a leading nursing academic and his family who received theirs it may be that the remaining population are considered dispensable. The kits contain COVID-19 rapid tests and KN95 masks and two packs of a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) called Lianhua Qingwen Jiaonang (LQJ) which will, allegedly, “clear scourge, remove toxin, diffuse the lung and discharge heat”. Apart from the fact that the Legislative Council of Hong Kong has not bothered to ask a native English speaker to check the above description of the purported action of LQJ, it appears that it has also not consulted anyone with any knowledge of medicine – real medicine – what any of that means.

“Clear scourge” is simply Chinglish gobbledegook; “diffuse the lung” is biologically meaningless and “discharge heat” defies the laws of thermodynamics. Whether or not LQJ is capable of the claim that it will “remove toxin” is another matter. But, notwithstanding that if something is “removed” it must go somewhere which is not specified, at least this is testable. In terms of “removal”, in conventional medical terms this means metabolic removal by “first pass” metabolic breakdown in the liver, commonly engaging the services of a liver microsome enzyme known as cytochrome P450. Otherwise, toxins are removed by the kidneys and excreted in the urine. How LQJ is involved in that process is unknown.

Lest the Hong Kong recipients of the Covid kits are in any doubt about when to use their supply of LQJ, they are advised that the indications are that it can be used for: “Patterns of heat toxin assailing the lung, manifested as fever, aversion to cold, muscle soreness, stuffy and runny nose, cough, headache, dry and sore throat, reddish tongue, and yellow or yellow and greasy tongue coating.” All they needed to add was ‘feeling a bit iffy’ and ‘having the sniffles’ and they would have had a full set of vague symptoms that would turn even the most resilient person towards the medicine cupboard.

‘Zero Covid’ Lunacy Drives Brain Drain From Hong Kong

Hong Kong has been suffering a brain drain after years of enduring first anti-democracy crackdown and more recently Zero Covid lunacy. The Telegraph has the story.

The brain drain that Hong Kong is suffering from as tens of thousands of mainly middle-class, educated professionals seek to escape has become so extreme that even Carrie Lam, the city’s Chief Executive was forced to acknowledge it this week.

“It’s an unarguable fact that we have a brain drain and some senior management of some corporates have left Hong Kong,” she said on Wednesday.

Ms. Lam tried to blame it on the city’s coronavirus restrictions, which have isolated the city with 21-day quarantines on arrival, flight bans and shut infected people away in sparse Government facilities. 

But the city has seen more and more people leaving ever since the turbulent pro-democracy protests of 2019.

Hong Kong’s population plunged at a record pace in the 12 months that ended in June 2021, officially putting it at about 7.39 million.

Zero Covid Zealots Try to Rewrite History

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This week, Zero Covid proponents such as anthropologist Devi Sridhar have been out in force to try to save their legacy and regain control of the narrative by rewriting history. Toby Green in UnHerd takes them to task.

The past two days have seen sorties from scientists desperate to shore up the lockdown version of history. Lockdowns were necessary, and anyone who disagrees does not care about society or equality. This version of history is so fraudulent that it cannot be allowed to triumph.

Writing in the Guardian yesterday, Devi Sridhar asks: “Why can’t some scientists just admit they were wrong about Covid?” Why indeed? Sridhar notes that scientists have divided into opposing camps, taking “particular pandemic positions…eventually building a base of followers that organise around that position and defend it viciously.” She just doesn’t seem to recognise that this neatly describes her own approach.

Sridhar’s piece is a craven attempt to rewrite history by claiming that the Zero Covid position was only ever intended for the pre-vaccine era. Can this be the same Sridhar who said in a New Statesman interview in January 2021 that “the better option is to eliminate the virus” – even after vaccines had started to be rolled out? Or who tweeted in June 2020 that “the fastest way to get economy & normal life back is to push for a ZERO Covid Britain. Clear virus, build domestic economy”? Still, as far as Sridhar’s concerned, if anyone got anything wrong, it wasn’t her.

Green also notes that Independent SAGE member Kit Yates claimed in the British Medical Journal this week that lockdowns were necessary to protect the NHS and vulnerable members of society. Those who disagree with this, he argues, do not “place the lives of the most vulnerable high on their list of priorities” or “place a high worth on the long term health of their population”. Green is having none of it.

New Zealand Finally Abandons Zero Covid Madness

Jacinda Arden has decided to scrap quarantine requirements for returning Kiwis, admitting that the number of Covid cases in New Zealand is now so high it makes little sense to insist on draconian border controls. MailOnline has more.

New Zealanders will finally be able to freely come and go from their island fortress in just a few days with the borders finally opening just a crack.

Prime Minister Jacinda Arden announced on Monday there will be no required quarantine for vaccinated New Zealanders returning home from March 3rd.

Kiwis stuck in Australia through the Covid pandemic have finally been able to get back home after being locked out for months.

Kiwis in Australia could already return to New Zealand without quarantine from Monday, February 28th, as part of NZ’s staggered opening scheme.

Travellers from the rest of the world were required to complete seven days of self-isolation, but that will be scrapped from Thursday for all countries of arrival.

New Zealand created a five step plan for reopening its borders, with Monday’s announcement marking an acceleration of step two.

Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the change allowed Kiwis to immediately reconnect with their loved ones.

“Cabinet has agreed to lift all self-isolation requirements for vaccinated travellers entering New Zealand,” he said.

“That means that all Kiwis coming home and tourists entering the country will be able to step off the plane and immediately connect with family and friends and enjoy all New Zealand has to offer.”

Quarantine-free travel had initially been planned for March 13th but Ms Ardern said high cases in NZ meant the date could be brought forward.

“We’ve wanted to make sure that we’re carefully easing up the border so that we don’t over-burden our health system, but with so many cases in New Zealand now, it makes sense to look at those settings,” she said.

Worth reading in full.

More News From Hong Kong, Where ‘Zero Covid’ is Still the Official Policy

We’re publishing a second dispatch from our anonymous Hong Kong correspondent, this time focusing on two recent reports in the local media. Together, they present a picture of a city that is gradually being crushed under the boot of Communist dictatorship.

Your readers may be interested in a further update on Hong Kong? At a time when most other countries are either removing or at least reducing Covid regulations and requirements, why is Hong Kong moving in the opposite direction?

I attach one notice and two articles from today’s South China Morning Post newspaper:

The above notice is the diagramatic instruction, English version, to all 7.5 million Hong Kong residents about how ‘Dynamic Covid’ is to be implemented from today.

The two articles include the following:

(President) Xi instructed Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and her team to mobilise all available forces and resources and take all necessary measures to ensure the safety of residents and the stability of society, according to reports splashed on the front pages of the Beijing-backed newspapers Wen Wei Po and Ta Kung Pao.

He demanded the Hong Kong Government take primary responsibility for the fight against the virus while ordering the central Government departments and Guangdong province to promptly address Hong Kong’s requests. His forthright tone has clearly demonstrated Beijing’s worries and its dismay about Hong Kong’s response.

Making public his instruction is significant on several levels. The first aspect is to impress on the Hong Kong Government the need to take more decisive actions to contain the outbreak; the second one is to stiffen the spines of local officials in dismissing the thinking behind, and lobbying for, the policy of living with Covid – favoured by many residents including civil servants at a time when the rest of the world has opened up; the third one is to remind officials of the need to bury their differences and get 100% behind China’s dynamic Zero-Covid policy.

And like truckers the world over, our truckers have their problems too:

China Two Years On: From Hubris to Hamsters

Two years on from the lockdown of Wuhan the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has persuaded the people of China that it has protected them as though a father figure caring for children. The lockdowns, the restrictions on movement, the closing of borders and the cancelling of public holidays and events: these were all ‘for your own good’, as a parent might say to a child.

The message, of course, is that it has all been worth it because it has worked. The Zero Covid approach has, after the initial Hubei province scare, kept cases and hospitalisations and deaths right down, though probably not as ‘down’ as official figures indicate. The CCP has protected the Chinese people from what Xi Jinping described in his first public comment as the “demon” or “alien” virus. Had it come from another world? Maybe it came from outer space – but certainly it was nothing to do with China. Oh no.

This Zero Covid policy is however mired in arrogance. Those promoting it in China – and elsewhere – are certainly not ‘following the science’ (whatever that means) and are instead setting themselves above the science. A position that starts with the idea that politicians can make viruses behave in a way that viruses don’t behave as a starting point is flawed in its arrogance and is classic hubris. Hubris, however has a history dating back to Ancient Greece of being punished by the gods.

The virus, now in its Omicron guise, has indeed done what contagious viruses do and found a way past closed borders, testing and travel bans.

In Hong Kong some 2,200 hamsters have been euthanised. This is because of a single pet shop worker testing Covid positive and the consequent checks on the hamsters, fewer than five of which also tested positive. Hong Kong this week reports 100-plus cases a day and rising. But… ‘It was the hamsters’ and nothing to do with China. Oh no.

“Taliban Treated Me Better,” Says Pregnant New Zealand Journalist Stranded in Afghanistan

A pregnant New Zealand journalist stranded in Afghanistan for months has found the Taliban more helpful than her own Government, which has failed to let her back in. MailOnline has the story.

Charlotte Bellis, a broadcast journalist, said she has repeatedly tried to return to New Zealand since she learned she was pregnant in September. 

She has submitted 59 documents to New Zealand officials in Afghanistan in an attempt to secure an emergency return home, but her bid was turned down and led her to turn to the Taliban, one of the world’s most oppressive regimes, for sympathy.

It’s a particularly cruel twist of fate for the woman who was revered worldwide for her fearless questioning of the jihadist group’s previous record on women’s rights.

To add insult to injury, Ms Bellis has warned that pregnancy can be a death sentence in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan because of the poor state of maternity care and lack of surgical capabilities.  

Speaking to 1News about her situation, Ms Bellis asked: “To the NZ Government, I ask what do you want me to do? I have done nothing wrong I got pregnant and I am a New Zealander.

“At what point did we get so bogged down in these rules we’ve come up with that we can’t see that she’s a Kiwi in need of help and she needs to come home?”

Although the spread of COVID-19 has been limited in New Zealand and just 52 deaths have been reported since the start of the pandemic, the nation still requires citizens to spend 10 days in isolation hotels run by the military.

The ‘zero Covid’ policy has repeatedly come under fire and the strict self-isolation restrictions have now caused a backlog of thousands of people desperate to return home.

Ms Bellis has become one of the most high-profile Kiwis to fall victim to New Zealand’s extreme border controls, as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her Government face further embarrassment over their own policies.

Writing in the New Zealand Herald on Saturday, Ms Bellis said it was “brutally ironic” that while she had once questioned the Taliban about their treatment of women, she was now asking the same questions of her own Government. 

“When the Taliban offers you – a pregnant, unmarried woman – safe haven, you know your situation is messed up,” she wrote. …

Last year, Bellis was working for Al Jazeera covering the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan when she gained international attention by questioning Taliban leaders about their treatment of women and girls.

In her column on Saturday, she said she returned to Qatar in September and discovered she was expecting a baby with her partner, freelance photographer Jim Huylebroek, a contributor to the New York Times.

She described the pregnancy as a “miracle” after earlier being told by doctors she could not have children. She is due to give birth to a girl in May.

Extramarital sex is illegal in Qatar and Ms Bellis said she realised she needed to leave. She repeatedly tried to get back to New Zealand in a lottery-style system for returning citizens but without success.

She said she resigned from Al Jazeera in November and the couple moved to Mr Huylebroek’s native Belgium, but she could not stay long because she was not a resident. She said the only other place the couple had visas to live was Afghanistan.

Ms Bellis said she spoke with senior Taliban contacts who told her she would be fine if she returned to Afghanistan.

“Just tell people you’re married and if it escalates, call us. Don’t worry,” she said they told her.

She said she sent 59 documents to New Zealand authorities in Afghanistan but they rejected her application for an emergency return.

Zero Covid Zealot Jacinda Arden Cancels Wedding, Imposes Mini-Lockdown and Insists on a 24-Day Isolation Period After New Zealand Recorded 84 New Covid Cases on Saturday

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden has cancelled her wedding as her Government imposes new restrictions to slow the community spread of the Omicron variant. Reuters has more

New Zealand will impose mask rules and limit gathering from midnight on Sunday after a cluster of nine COVID-19 Omicron cases showed community spread from the North to South islands after a wedding.

A family returned to Nelson in the South Island by plane after attending a wedding and other events in Auckland in the North Island. The family and a flight attendant tested positive.

New Zealand will move to a red setting under its COVID-19 protection framework, with more mask wearing. Indoor hospitality settings such as bars and restaurants and events like weddings will be capped at 100 people. The limit is lowered to 25 people if venues are not using vaccine passes, Arden said.

“My wedding will not be going ahead,” she told reporters, adding she was sorry for anyone caught up in a similar scenario. Ardern had not disclosed her wedding date, but it was rumoured to be imminent.

Asked by reporters how she felt about the cancellation of her wedding to longtime partner and fishing-show host Clarke Gayford, Ardern replied: “Such is life.”

She added, “I am no different to, dare I say it, thousands of other New Zealanders who have had much more devastating impacts felt by the pandemic, the most gutting of which is the inability to be with a loved one sometimes when they are gravely ill. That will far, far outstrip any sadness I experience.”

New Zealand’s borders have been shut to foreigners since March 2020. The government pushed back plans for a phased reopening from mid-January to the end of February out of concern about a potential Omicron outbreak as in neighbouring Australia.

People able to travel to New Zealand under narrow exceptions must apply to stay at state-managed quarantine facilities. The government last week stopped issuing any new slots amid a surge in the number of people arriving with Omicron.

About 94% of New Zealand’s population over the age of 12 is fully vaccinated and about 56% of those eligible have had booster shots.

According to MailOnline, New Zealand will make household contacts of Covid cases isolate for 24 days.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has brought in the strict measures as the country battles to stay Covid Zero despite the threat of the highly contagious mutant strain.

But critics say the lengthy quarantine period is ‘unworkable’ and will lead people to avoid getting tested.

Anyone infected with Covid is now required to isolate for 14 days, up from 10 days under the new interim rules.

Household contacts must then stay in quarantine for a further 10 days, stretching the time alone out to three and a half weeks.

Jacinda Arden is behaving like a character in a Don’t Look Up-style satire about the absurd lengths Zero Covid fanatics will go to avoid abandoning their crackpot agenda. Ninety-four per cent of the over-12s vaccinated and the toothy tyrant still won’t give them their freedom back.

Worth reading in full.

Island Goes into First Lockdown as 36 Vaccinated Passengers on Flight Test Positive For Covid

Two years into the pandemic, the Pacific island nation of Kiribati has gone into its first lockdown, after 36 of 54 passengers on the first international flight into the country in 10 months tested positive for Covid. All the passengers were vaccinated. Despite that, the office of President Taneti Maamau said on Facebook: “The only way that we can fight this virus is through complete vaccination. The public is urged to complete their vaccination doses in order to protect themselves and families.” The BBC has the story.

Under the new measures, people have been told to stay at home and social gatherings are banned.

Some 36 people on the flight from Fiji have tested positive. Four people have caught the virus from community transmission.

Until last week, Kiribati had recorded just two Covid cases.

Kiribati is one of the most isolated islands in the world. It is some 5,000km (3,100 miles) from its nearest continent, North America.

On Tuesday, the government confirmed that 36 of the 54 passengers had tested positive. It said in a post on Facebook that all passengers are currently being monitored by health officials..

All of the passengers on the flight are fully vaccinated, the Government said.

However three members of the quarantine facility’s security team have since tested positive. Another person who does not work at the facility has also contracted the virus, the Government said.

The lockdown came into force on Saturday but it is not clear how long it will last.

People are not allowed to leave their homes unless for essential services. They can buy essential items from shops but only between 06:00 and 14:00.

Yet more evidence of the fantasy land public authorities are living in, where the fact that all the people infected were vaccinated does nothing at all to dent the push for universal vaccination as supposedly ending transmission. The purpose of the lockdown is also unclear, as are the criteria that would make it successful. Is the Government trying to delay the outbreak until enough of the population has had two or three vaccine doses? Even then, of course, the virus will still spread.

Worth reading in full.