The Madness of Zero-Covid Policies – Conservative Article
As Europe and America begin to open up again, several countries are confusingly going back into lockdown. Parts of Australia, China, and Hong Kong have reintroduced measures to keep their citizens at home. This is a backwards step from the progress the world has seemingly made. The fact that these countries have pursued zero-Covid policy goals, unlike Europe and America, explains this. This means that as soon as a COVID case or a cluster of COVID cases are detected, strict lockdown measures are implemented. The objective of this policy is to eradicate it from a geographical area through a process known as Find, Test, Trace, Isolate and Support. However, when other countries are opening up in the face of COVID, it makes this policy look defunct.
Australia has recently reinstated lockdown restrictions in some areas, for example, Sydney. An outbreak of the Delta variant led to nearly 3,000 infections and nine deaths. This resulted in Sydney being placed under strict lockdown conditions, with residents told that they can only leave the house for shopping and other essential duties. This will last until at least the 28th of August. Moreover, the military has been drafted in to help with enforcement. This is a shocking and overbearing use of force in what should be a free and liberal democracy. And also, with cases continuing to rise, these zero-Covid lockdowns just don’t work.
China has introduced mass travel restrictions in the country, after detecting 300 cases of the Delta variant in Wuhan. The Chinese authorities have vowed to restrict any unnecessary cross border travel. Should cases grow, they will likely apply more restrictions.
Hong Kong still has mandatory quarantine for arrivals, even if they have been fully vaccinated. Furthermore, because the COVID rate has been so low there, the people in the area are slower to get vaccinated as they have been lulled into a false sense of security. They haven’t seen the true threat that the virus poses to them. This means vaccine take-up has been low, with only about 17% of the population fully vaccinated, and this stat even lower amongst the elderly and those in care homes. This is despite the fact Hong Kong has access to supplies of the BioNTech jab. Compare this to a country that did not pursue zero-Covid. The UK has vaccinated over 70% of its population.
Vaccination problems also dog Australia. It is one of the worst performers with its vaccination scheme (along with New Zealand I might add) in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. Both of these countries are facing the same problems as Hong Kong. Due to the lack of the virus in the country, there are high levels of vaccine hesitancy among the populations. This is especially worrying because vaccines will be the only thing preventing these zero-Covid countries from forever locking down and reopening.
From this, it is quite clear that the governments of these countries are living in fear of COVID, and yet its people are complacent in the face of it. While I will not deny these countries have had great success at keeping the death rate far lower than countries that have opted to live with COVID, the fact is that it has trapped them in cycles of lockdowns at the first sight of trouble. Stop-start lockdowns have caused no end of economic and social damage, something that is only worsened with each successive lockdown.
Zero-Covid strategies are only useful short term. This is because, at some point, you are inevitably going to have to accept that there will be people with COVID, and there cannot be the spectre of constant snap lockdowns to haunt society and the economy. This will stunt progress, both economically and socially, and cause unneeded uncertainty.
Here in the UK, living with the virus is now the proposed policy, and it is the only way to prevent long term societal and economic damage that zero COVID brings. We are used to seeing thousands of cases per day. Jacinda Ardern criticised the UK for adopting such an idea, but at some point, we must move on from destructive lockdowns, especially now that we have the vaccine (and more importantly, high vaccine take up), to better fight COVID. Jacinda Ardern can’t quite say the same for her country’s vaccine take-up.
That is the problem with zero-Covid. It breeds far too much complacency, which only makes for a worse spread when those countries finally open up.
Written by Senior Conservative Writer, Kieran Burt
Point of Information
Impractical but, for these countries, necessary? – A Liberal Response
Last year, countries like Australia and New Zealand seemed to have handled the pandemic unbelievably well. While the UK was going in and out of lockdown, with case and death rates reaching new heights, it was almost as if COVID-19 did not exist for some countries. And that’s because it didn’t really, at least not within their country’s borders. However, Kieran highlights an important issue. Ultimately, although these countries’ approaches were successful in the beginning, they now found themselves stuck.
I completely agree with Kieran in that zero-Covid strategies are not proving to be effective in the long term. It is not feasible or practical to keep going into lockdown. The pandemic has simply raged on for far too long for us not to have to live with it. Therefore, I am in agreement that the UK’s decision to end lockdown is justified, albeit slightly premature, in my opinion.
That said, whilst these policies are impractical, arguably for some countries they are currently the only realistic option to prevent a devastating wave of COVID. As Kieran states, the countries that are still implementing zero Covid policies are the same ones with low vaccination rates. They are also the same countries that endured the pandemic last year relatively unscathed, explaining why there was no rush in their vaccination programme. Consequently, I do not see these policies as ‘madness’, given the fact that they have not really got a choice in the matter.
Obviously, the wise move would have been for these countries to have rolled out the vaccine programme early on whilst cases were low. However, although hindsight is a wonderful thing, this pandemic is not something people can easily foresee. Until vaccination rates increase rapidly, which these countries need to prioritise, there is not much else they can do.
Written by Senior Liberal Writer, Beccy Reeves
The goal isn’t the problem – A Labour Response
Kieran’s article suggests that a zero-Covid policy is the wrong approach entirely and that no good can come of it. I disagree, particularly with the countries in question.
Evidently, as Kieran highlights, there are real concerns surrounding a zero-Covid approach. However, these concerns are heavily attributable to the execution of the approach in individual countries (like poor vaccine rollout in New Zealand) rather than the goal itself. Simply aiming to eradicate covid completely from a certain geographical area shouldn’t be condemned. I’m sure we all want to be living without COVID.
Think back to last year, just a few months after the start of the pandemic, we were all jealous that countries like Australia and New Zealand were back to normality. This was because they aimed for zero-Covid. Kieran says this was only a short term solution but they arguably still remain in a better position than many. Here we are, in the UK, still battling COVID and going round in circles after almost a year and a half of restrictions.
I can agree with Kieran. Getting vaccinated is beyond important wherever you are in the world. Regardless of a zero-Covid policy or otherwise, governments should prioritise vaccine rollouts and encourage people to get the jab. This is where these countries have fallen short. But who says zero-Covid and high vaccine rates can’t co-exist?
I also completely understand the implications constant lockdowns can have on small businesses, families, and a country’s economy. But this is no more important than the nine recent deaths in Australia or the 300 new cases in Wuhan. We shouldn’t just “accept that there will be people with COVID” and that deaths are inevitable. There has to be an alternative.
So maybe countries opting for zero-Covid have failed in its implementation. They need to address the problems and maybe even trial some new strategies. Ultimately though, we want to eradicate COVID. So the goal should remain the same.
Written by Chief Labour Writer, Abi Clargo