Shanghai: Pandemic Panic To Pandemic Paranoia
Faucism Is A Mental Illness
China remains psychotically obsessed with its draconian Zero COVID policy, despite the results on the ground showing the lockdown protocol simply does not work.
“It should be pointed out that China’s anti-epidemic policies are science-based and effective, and we are fully confident that Shanghai and other places in China will prevail over the new wave of the epidemic,” said Zhao.
Shanghai residents might beg to differ.
Shanghai Enters Eternal Lockdown
Despite some neighborhoods having been in lockdown since late March, and the entire city since the beginning of April, Shanghai residents were told the lockdown will extend to at least May 1st, and possibly longer. How the people will survive being confined either to their homes or workplaces is a question left unanswered, as residents on lockdown are forbidden even to shop for groceries.
Many neighborhoods in Shanghai are in a chaotic state. Some people can’t get treatment. There is a serious lack of food. Some elderlies died in senior facilities without family members around. Babies are separated from their parents because their COVID-19 test results are different.
Left unanswered—and unasked, at least out loud—is the question of the “science” behind these policies. What is “the science” which justifies Zero COVID? Is there any science at all?
Regardless of the scientific basis, or lack thereof, the lockdown policies are not achieving the stated objective: Zero COVID cases. Even with lockdowns, cases are continuing to mount in China, with 1,184 new confirmed and 26,411 asymptomatic COVID-19 cases on April 11 alone.
The numbers completely the lockdown protocol has failed. Eternal lockdown for some 26 million Shanghai residents is no demonstration of efficacy, especially when disease spread itself is unaffected.
Vaccines Have Failed
The numbers prove that more than China’s lockdown policies are failing. China's homegrown vaccines are every bit the disease mitigation failure mRNA inoculations are in the west. Based on the numbers reported to the World Health Organization, China's worst COVID-19 outbreak is occurring right now as of this writing.
This despite a near 90% adult vaccination rate.
Nor have China’s SinoVac and SinoPharm vaccines ever been highly effective. Even pre-Omicron, many countries which adopted the Chinese inactivated whole virus vaccines experienced severe outbreaks despite vaccinating over 50% of their population.
In the Seychelles, Chile, Bahrain and Mongolia, 50 to 68 percent of the populations have been fully inoculated, outpacing the United States, according to Our World in Data, a data tracking project. All four ranked among the top 10 countries with the worst Covid outbreaks as recently as last week, according to data from The New York Times. And all four are mostly using shots made by two Chinese vaccine makers, Sinopharm and Sinovac Biotech.
By definition, vaccines are meant to prevent disease outbreak. By the numbers, China’s vaccines have failed to do so, at home and abroad.
Even The Easing Is Insane
In response to growing criticism and unrest among Shanghai's 26 million residents, Beijing has begun easing the COVID-19 lockdown rules in certain neighborhoods.
Officials said that about 40 percent of some 17,000 areas in the city, or more than 7,500, saw their restrictions relaxed on Monday. Local media reported on residents in those areas who were allowed to go shopping for food and other daily necessities.
However, the easing rules are tenuous, arbitrary, and built to fail, forcing a reversion of strict lockdown, quarantine, and isolation.
Even in the parts of Shanghai where restrictions have been eased, any single confirmed case of infection would force the area to revert to lockdown measures for 14 days.
In other words, select neighborhoods are free to go to store, but only as long as no one tests positive for COVID-19. If there is just one single case, what little freedom of movement some Shanghai residents may now enjoy will be snatched away the moment anyone in their neighborhood tests positive for COVID-19. With roughly 7 million people potentially being gifted limited freedom from lockdown, the odds are heavily in favor of occasional random individuals developing a confirmed case, thereby locking down their entire neighborhood for 14 days.
Yet even at that, people in the communities with a technically looser lockdown are still being pressured to remain isolated and locked down.
Residents living in places where lockdowns were technically eased said that they were still barred or discouraged from leaving their compounds by property management or neighborhood committee personnel, and those who did make it out onto the streets said no shops were open and staff asked them to leave quickly.
How Bad Is It Really?
In China as in the rest of the world, the actual severity of COVID-19 disease remains a point of contention. However, with 935,640 confirmed cases reported to the WHO and 14,048 reported deaths, China’s Case Fatality Rate (CFR) is approximately 1.5%.
By comparison, based on the numbers reported to the WHO, the Case Fatality Rate in the United States is 1.22%, while the Case Fatality Rate worldwide is only slightly higher at 1.24%. China's Case Fatality Rate is moderately higher than the global average, but it's fraction of the CFR recorded for the original SARS virus, which was 11%.
Looking at other endemic infectious diseases, we see that measles in some parts of the world can have a CFR as high as 11.5. China experiences tens of thousands of cases of measles every year, yet the public health response to this far more deadly pathogen has never included lockdowns and mass diagnostic testing, despite measles having a much higher basic reproduction number (~12-18) than COVID-19 (~3.38), thus being far more contagious. With an average basic reproduction number of ~9.5, even the Omicron variant is not as contagious as measles.
China has never locked down for measles, a more contagious and more lethal pathogen. On that basis alone one can argue that China’s COVID-19 response has been at best disproportionate, and at worst wildly hysterical.
The Hysterical Overreaction, Consequences Be Damned
The harsh lockdown regime imposed on Shanghai is not merely hysterical but in many ways schizophrenic. The Zero COVID policy allows virtually no freedom of movement, yet officials are still tasked with preventing or at least minimizing the economic and societal fallout.
Sun Chunlan, who sits on the ruling Communist Party’s Politburo, urged “resolute and swift moves to stem the spread of COVID-19 in Shanghai in the shortest time possible,” the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
However, Sun stressed “unswerving adherence” to China’s hard-line “zero-COVID” approach, mandating lockdowns, forced isolation of all suspected cases and mass testing, even while acknowledging the social and economic toll that is taking.
“It is an arduous task and huge challenge to combat the omicron variant while maintaining the normal operation of core functions in a megacity,” Sun said.
She called for safeguarding key industries and institutions and the functioning of supply and industrial chains in the commercial hub, along with ensuring “people’s basic living conditions and normal medical needs.”
“Basic live conditions” presumably includes adequate food, something that Shanghai residents indicate is sorely lacking.
Shanghai has recently experienced China's largest COVID-19 outbreak, and since late last month, has faced lockdowns. Chinese officials have received backlash for the policy as residents have said they have had to go without basic necessities including food. A video captured ahead of the lockdown last month showed residents fighting one another for food and supplies in a store.
To maintain some semblance of normal operations, not only factory workers but also office and clerical staffs have been living where they work since late March—hardly a preservation of “basic living conditions”.
Yan Yuejin, a property analyst in Shanghai, found himself unexpectedly sequestered with his colleagues in the office early last month after authorities found positive cases in the vicinity. More than 2,000 staff working in three buildings in the area were shut indoors for seven days and tested frequently, he said.
“When it gets to 8:00 and 9:00 at night, people start changing into slippers and pajamas. The next thing you know, you are brushing your teeth next to your boss. It’s so awkward,” the 38-year-old said.
In addition to the undeniably extreme psychological pressures of such disruptions to ordinary living conditions, the constant threat of isolation produces its own constant fear bordering on paranoia.
For Stephanie Sam, a communications professional in Shanghai, carrying around a bag of daily necessities became second nature. Worried she would be swept up in an unannounced quarantine, she constantly carried enough antibacterial and facial wipes, face wash and toothpaste to last her two weeks. Later, she added coffee sachets and flip flops.
Her dog also went wherever she did—to the supermarket, a vaccination appointment and to a dinner party—to ensure they wouldn’t be separated abruptly.
“Leaving your house was like playing a game of roulette,” Ms. Sam said, recalling the first few weeks of March. “You just never knew when or where you might get stuck.”
Yet for all the overreaction, the economic fallout has been significant and is growing, threatening yet more disruptions to already fractured and frayed global supply chains. Despite the “lockdown at work” scheme, ongoing factory production is getter mooted by the disruptions the lockdown regime has imposed on China’s truckers.
Truckers form a crucial component of supply chains in China, moving raw materials from coastal ports to factories further inland. The backlog is likely contributing to growing ship queues off China, threatening even more delays and higher freight rates in coming months.
Sustaining factory operations is further stressed by the growing inability of ships to unload their cargoes due to a lockdown-induced shortage of dock workers.
A shortage of port workers at Shanghai is slowing the delivery of documentation needed for ships to unload cargoes, according to ship owners and traders. Meanwhile, vessels carrying metals like copper and iron ore are left stranded offshore as trucks are unable to send goods from the port to processing mills, they said.
If safeguarding the “functioning of supply and industrial chains” is a priority for the Shanghai lockdown, the lockdown is in this regard at least demonstrably self-sabotaging. It is disrupting one of China’s busiest ports, disrupting factory production, and threatening China’s already fragile economy.
Nor are the disruptions confined to China. Already shipping and logistics firms in Germany are feeling the bite of Zero COVID within China.
A flash survey of German companies showed that China’s Covid Zero strategy has consequences “extending from logistics and production all the way along the entire supply chain within China,” Joerg Wuttke, the president of the chamber, wrote in a letter to Vice Premier Hu Chunhua.
51% of German companies’ logistics and warehousing and 46% of their supply chains are “completely disrupted or severely impacted” by China’s Covid situation, Wuttke wrote in the letter, which was seen by Bloomberg News and confirmed by the Chamber.
That pain will only spread as the ripple effects of the port congestion work their way around the world, inflicting yet another supply shock on the global economy.
China's Faucists Are In Denial
The scientific method is above all else grounded in reality. Theories adapt to fit the available evidence as it becomes known. Policies which are presumably informed by a scientific appreciation of the data adapt to fit the data as it becomes known.
When policies do not adapt to the data what results is policy driven not by science but by ideology. When those in charge of policy insists that science supports them when the data does not they are immediately revealed as Faucists, not scientists nor bureaucrats guided by science.
At every turn, the Zero COVID policy in China has produced reams of data which shows policy failure rather than policy success. The Shanghai lockdown is merely the latest most extreme example of this failure. Yet China’s health officials from President Xi Jinping on down have doubled and redoubled on their failed Zero COVID policy. They have doubled and redoubled and hailed their efforts as a success while ignoring the data being gathered on the pandemic.
They have doubled and redoubled on Faucism and only produced greater and greater failures.
We have seen in the United States the damage done when the scientific bastardy of Faucism becomes the guiding light for public health policy. In China and its lockdown of Shanghai, its largest and most economically important city, we are seeing the damage done when the scientific bastardy of Faucism goes so far as to lose all touch with reality.
In China, Faucism has gone from mere corrupt junk science to psychotic delusion and denial. Where China is concerned, Faucism is a pandemic of mental illness.
This will not end well for China.