According to the reports by associated press, When China suddenly scrapped onerous zero-COVID measures in December, the country wasn’t ready for a massive onslaught of cases. Hospitals turned away ambulances, crematoriums burned bodies around the clock, and relatives hauled dead loved ones to warehouses for lack of storage space.
Chinese state media claimed the decision to open up was based on “scientific analysis and shrewd calculation,” and “by no means impulsive.” But in reality, China’s ruling Communist Party ignored repeated efforts by top medical experts. To kickstart exit plans until it was too late, AP said.
Instead, the reopening occurred abruptly at the start of winter, when the virus is most easily transmitted. According to academic modeling, more than 20 interviews with current and former China Centers for Disease Control and Prevention employees, experts and government advisors, and internal reports and directives obtained by the AP, many older people were not vaccinated, pharmacies lacked antivirals, and hospitals lacked adequate supplies or staff, resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths that could have been avoided.
“If China had a real plan to exit zero-Covid earlier, so many things could have been avoided,” said Zhang Zuo-Feng, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles. “Many deaths could have been prevented.”
For two years, China stood out for its tough but successful controls against the virus, credited with saving millions of lives as other countries struggled with stop-and-start lockdowns. But with the emergence of the highly infectious omicron variant last year, many of China’s top medical experts and officials worried zero-COVID was unsustainable.
In late 2021, China’s leaders began discussing how to lift restrictions. As early as March 2022, top medical experts submitted detailed proposals to prepare for a gradual exit to the State Council, China’s cabinet.