China’s Dr Fauci talks about coexisting with the virus. Cue social media storm
- Virologist Zhang Wenhong has been criticised after saying countries will have to find a way to live with Covid-19
- The response to his remarks reflects fears about any change to the zero-tolerance strategy
In a post on social media network Weibo on July 29, Zhang wrote: “The data tells us that even if everyone gets vaccinated, Covid-19 will still be spreading but the transmission rate and fatalities will be reduced.”
He added that every country had to think of a way to coexist with the virus.
But Zhang’s remarks prompted criticism on social media after they were apparently addressed in an article by former health minister Gao Qiang. Posted on an account run by Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily, many saw it as an official response.
Gao wrote that foreign governments were “shirking their responsibilities” by blaming the Delta variant for a rebound in cases.
Without naming Zhang, he said: “It is surprising that some experts in our country have highlighted the astonishing power of the Delta variant, but advised the nation to come up with strategies to coexist with the virus … isn’t that self-contradictory?”
The article prompted a pile-on from social media users, some accusing Zhang of “surrenderism”.
Zhang did not suggest China should reopen its borders right now – he was calling for a long-term strategy to cope with the reality of the situation.
There are also concerns about “learning to live with the virus” and reopening borders because of the huge population and the fact that Chinese vaccines are not as effective as others.
The health care system is also weak outside big cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, and nationwide the number of intensive care beds is far lower than in Western countries.
That is why the authorities, and the public, are unlikely to accept Zhang’s view just yet.