Reflections on China's effective containment tactic

Jacob von Bisterfeld
Looking back, I wonder how has this unique pandemic containment result been possible?
Jacob von Bisterfeld

While Shanghai remains on high alert for possible cross infections of COVID-19, now chiefly from imported cases, we can afford to celebrate the advent of spring in our different ways.

For me, now I can leave my residential complex without being given the omnipresent officially stamped leaving ticket that has to be surrendered upon re-entering.

I no longer need to bare my clothing to expose a hotspot for the ubiquitous temperature measurement and I can even receive visitors and, more importantly, my couriered groceries, replacement printer cartridges and, of course, my weekly magazine copies.

Obviously, local authorities have seen fit to readjust the communal guards a little compared with the measures adopted before.

Looking back, I wonder how has this unique pandemic containment result been possible?

Two obvious reasons spring to mind: the first one being that the government followed the advice, proffered by experienced epidemiologists, to the letter and immediately placed specific regions into a rigorously enforced lockdown.

This is possible as the populace at large has been continuously warned of the risks confronting those who take it easy.

First and foremost, the enforcement of basic personal hygiene rules such as frequent hand washing, no face touching, and the mandatory wearing of a good face mask when venturing in the public domain become a matter of habit by most, with the latter not so much as preventing ingress of airborne viruses as limiting COVID-19 carriers’ ability to launch pathogens into the air with cough and sneeze.

Secondly, the immediate launch of a big data-based mobile phone app with a health QR code in red, green or yellow, as a security passport for entering any building or residential compound, to be shown on demand. A red QR code means a suspected case, people under quarantine or medical observation, or s confirmed case who is still hospitalized. Yellow indicates that the bearer is from or has been to key affected areas within two weeks prior to arrival in Shanghai, and green is the coveted OK sign. The big data base would automatically be updated when necessary with automatic adjustment of the QR codes where appropriate.

Thirdly, the government insists that 100 percent accurate and truthful statistics be broadcast daily by radio, TV and social media, with fake news items being removed whenever they rear their ugly heads and peddlers of fake news be duly punished.

No small reason for the success in suppressing the onslaught of the epidemic is the Chinese system of governance that effectively eliminates time-wasting and manipulative political posturing.

The government could call a spade a spade without mollycoddling, and forcefully ram the message home: Take precautions, or face the consequence!

And, no, supermarkets would not run out of anything during the pandemic.

So on entering any public facility one needs to scan a health QR code. Then temperatures are measured on a covered part of the body (exposed skin is cooler in winter) and those over the limit would be bundled off for further testing.

It is easy to see that the Chinese wisdom has been overwhelmingly demonstrated again in fighting the COVID-19.

Jacob von Bisterfeld is an emeritus professor at several universities in Shanghai and is currently active as a business consultant.

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