Top scientist: China could eventually ‘co-exist’ with Covid


China could move away from its zero-Covid strategy “in the near future” and co-exist with the virus, a top Chinese scientist said in a possible sign that the country’s leadership is rethinking its strict approach.

The country where the coronavirus was first detected in 2019 is now one of the last places still hewing to a zero-tolerance approach, responding to small outbreaks with snap lockdowns and cutting off most international travel.

But fatigue over disruptions to everyday life as well as semi-autonomous Hong Kong’s struggle to contain a mass Omicron outbreak has raised questions about the sustainability of China’s approach.

China’s strategy against Covid-19 cannot “remain unchanged forever” and “it is the long-term goal of humanity to co-exist with the virus” at tolerable death and illness rates, Zeng Guang wrote in a social media post on Monday.

Zeng is the former chief scientist of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention and one of the experts behind the country’s initial Covid response.

Zeng said that while China’s approach had prevented the early chaos of widespread infection experienced by many Western countries, the country’s low infection rate was now a “soft spot” as far fewer people had built up natural immunity.

“In the near future, at the right time, the roadmap for Chinese-style co-existence with the virus should be presented,” wrote Zeng.

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