Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 — October 12, 2022

“Shared expectations lead to predictability.”

591.  China is not living with “Covid,” but living with “zero Covid.”

         Q:  Is the whole world dealing with Covid-19 like we are?

         A:  Since the initial onset of Covid-19 in China, the national government has dictated it will manage the disease by totally eliminating it.  They have imposed a “zero Covid policy.”

The pandemic has generally allowed changing of former rituals around the world, but in China, the continuation of their extreme measures makes a stark contrast.

Vaccinations are available and required.  But the effectiveness of the Chinese vaccine is far lower than the shots given in the U.S.  China under “zero Covid” is a web of digital codes. At the entrance to every public space — restaurants, apartment complexes, even public restrooms — is a printed-out QR code that people must scan with their phones to log their visit.  Everyone also has a personal health code, which displays test results and location history to assign a color. Green is good. Yellow is denied entry to a public space, or red when you may be sent to quarantine.

Testing is mandatory.  One test daily if you leave your residence, and repeated testing each time you enter specified buildings and areas.  Testing sites are ample, since the government has ordered they be within a 15-minute walk in cities. They usually have a line, which can grow to be blocks long during lunchtime or after work. On hot days, people wait sometimes for 30 minutes, face masks plastered to their skin by sweat.

There are “temporary quarantine areas” where anyone deemed a potential health risk while in public can be deposited until medical care arrives.  Some of these are roped off areas on sidewalks.

When a person is tested and found to be yellow – restricted from entering a designated public space or store – or red – infected – they are taken to a secured location where they are held without the ability to leave for days.  If enough residents in a city block are found to test red, the entire block is declared to be in lockdown.  All residents are quarantined, and fencing is placed around the buildings to prevent anyone from leaving.  Most people routinely buy groceries to store at home in quantity.  They are now prepared for when their lodgings might be suddenly declared to be in lockdown.

The economic effects of the restrictions have been harder to ignore. People caught in several lockdowns can make them unable to work for weeks. Jobs are scarcer anyway, as fewer people were buying products or clothing.

Reports have been published identifying that most people find impossible to get used to is the pervasive, and utter arbitrariness. You’re under lockdown, until someone decides you’re not.  You can take all the required tests, and be perfectly healthy, but your health code can still turn yellow.  For many Chinese, the past few years of the pandemic have stirred the spectrum of emotions from anger to frustration to grief. But the first word many people reach for, when asked how they feel, is “helplessness.”

The epidemiology of this infectious disease leads to the conclusion that when the world-wide pandemic is finally controlled, one area will remain with the greatest number of people without immunity – China.  By eliminating the disease, the population of China will remain highly vulnerable – unless these draconian measures continue.

592.  While Covid-19 is allegedly controlled, long-covid remains as a pandemic.

         Q:  If Covid-19 is under control, what’s all the fuss over long-Covid all about?

         A:  The consensus of many experts is that once the prevalence of the initial Covid-19 infections was being reduced by vaccinations, the population began to react to its fatigue over the many preventive restrictions imposed and demanded a “return to normalcy.”  Long-Covid conditions are often separated by time from when symptoms of Covid-19 emerged.  Long-covid physical signs and symptoms are dissimilar from those of Covid-19 and from other people with different conditions.  This leads to the consideration by the public they are different illness not caused by the same coronavirus agent.

Currently in the U.S., for people aged 65 and over, 92.6% have completed their initial vaccination series   But for this same group, only 45.2% have received at least two of their available booster shots.  After the vaccination program began, the percentage of people in this same age group who have died from Covid has risen by more than 5-fold.

A recent opinion article published by Bloomberg News has addressed this situation by considering Covid-19 and long-Covid as being parallel diseases.  (This article was reprinted in the October 5, 2022 issue of the Hartford Courant.)   The editorial posits that while Covid-19 is considered under control, long-Covid is still a pandemic.  “Even with good vaccinations and treatments, this year’s U.S. death toll is already many orders of magnitude higher than that of the other virus that circulates each year, the flu.” The editorial states that even if this winter’s surge is controlled and fewer people contract Covid-19 than last year, at the current death rate, “another 150,000 lives could be lost over the next 12 months.

As clearly stated by the Bloomberg editorial board: “The federal government needs to be considering how to end the emergency phase of the Covid-19 pandemic without putting solutions for long-Covid further out of reach.”  The roadblock to this happening is the strategy deeply opposed by most people – keeping vaccinations and booster shots up to date.