Wuhan, Birthplace Of COVID, Goes Back Under Lockdown
"Temporary" Restrictions, Permanent Threat
Wuhan is etched into most people’s memories as the birthplace of COVID-19.
It was from a Wuhan biolab that the SARS-CoV-2 virus emerged. And it was Wuhan that first tested the terrible ordeal of mass lockdowns (a test which failed, miserably).
Wuhan is now the latest city to once again endure lockdown under China’s insane “Zero COVID” policy, as nearly one million people in Wuhan’s Jiangxia District were placed under “temporary” restriction after a staggering four cases of COVID-19 were detected.
Wuhan's district of Jiangxia, with over 900,000 residents, said its main urban areas must enter a three-day restriction from Wednesday, during which it will ban many large group events and dining at restaurants, close various public entertainment venues, agricultural product marketplaces and small clinics and suspend bus and subway services.
While there is no reporting as of yet of additional restrictions, the recent Shanghai lockdown is a reminder that what begins with a single district or neighborhood can quickly spread to encompass the entire city. Jiangxia may be under “temporary restriction” now, but the city as a whole—China as a whole—remain under permanent threat that Zero COVID will shut everything down almost without warning.
Zero COVID, Economy Be Damned
Wuhan is also where President Xi Jinping offered up the latest defense for the failed “Zero COVID” policy. During a visit to Wuhan at the end of June, Xi publicly recommitted to the policy of draconian lockdowns and other mostly ineffective interventions intended to disrupt the transmission of the SARS-CoV-2.
“China’s population base is large, and if ‘herd immunity’ and ‘lying flat’ policies were taken, the consequences will be unimaginable,” he said, according to Xinhua. “We would rather temporarily affect a little economic development, than to risk harming people’s life safety and physical health, especially the elderly and children.”
At first glance, the Zero COVID approach might seem an arguable success, as China has long been notable for the relative paucity of confirmed COVID cases.
China’s reported COVID deaths are also quite low.
Yet the daily totals also highlight the reality that lockdowns have not halted the spread of COVID-19 in China. While Wuhan is entering restrictions anew after the detection of four cases, China as a whole recorded 626 new cases of COVID on July 27, which was a decline from the July 26 total of 703 cases. On July 24, China recorded 800 new cases, which was a decline from a July 23 total of 982 cases.
In the space of just under a week, under “Zero COVID” guidelines, China has recorded over 3,000 new cases of COVID-19, and this is while various districts around cities such as Shanghai and Shenzhen continue to have various levels of restriction in place.
Despite knowingly and willingly sacrificing economic growth to keep COVID case totals low, the virus is still virusing, the disease is still spreading.
And the economic cost of Zero COVID is not small. Locking down even a portion of an industrial city such as Wuhan is fraught with risks for new economic disruption and dislocation (on top of the ones already inflicted from prior shutdowns).
Wuhan is not merely a city of 12 million people. It is a leading industrial center as well, being the second most significant metallurgical center in China, as well as a major transportation hub, located where major road, rail and river transportation arteries converge1. Closing even a portion of the city has the potential for significant network effects that extend well beyond Wuhan, creating more of the same shortages and bottlenecks being experienced around the world.
The Zero COVID lockdowns are a primary reason the Chinese Politburo is being compelled to implicitly acknowledge what many economists and China observers have presumed for some time: China will not meet its goal of 5.5% GDP growth this year.
China’s Politburo, the Communist Party’s top policy-making body, said in a statement Thursday following its quarterly economic meeting that it would aim to keep the economy running within “a reasonable range” in the second half of the year. It also urged stronger provinces to strive to meet their annual growth targets—an implicit acknowledgment that others would miss their benchmarks.
China was compelled to abandon the 5.5% economic growth target after reporting second quarter growth of just 0.4%, pushing the yearly growth target well beyond reach.
While Xi has defended Zero COVID as requiring “temporary” economic pain to defend the health of China’s citizen, recurring lockdowns, and the persistent threat for more lockdowns, is making the pain anything but “temporary”. Thanks to Zero COVID, even the weakest GDP growth target for China in decades has been made unattainable.
The Lesson Xi Refuses To Learn
Even for China, the author of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, there is no escaping one basic reality: the virus is going to virus. It is going to spread, mutate, evolve, and remain endemic throughout the world. It will do this because that is what viruses do.
Wuhan’s first lockdown was an abysmal failure, one that is easily demonstrated by the fact that the vast majority of cases occurred more than two weeks after the lockdown began.
That is mathematically irreconcilable with any notion of lockdown as an effective mitigation against infectious respiratory disease.
That failure was repeated in the recent horror of Shanghai’s spring lockdown, which turned a city of 26 million people into a scene worthy of Dante’s Inferno.
Lockdowns do not work against infectious respiratory disease. Lockdowns have never worked against infectious respiratory disease. China has proven many times over that lockdowns do not work against infectious respiratory disease.
Yet despite the overwhelming evidence of lockdown failure, Xi Jinping refuses to learn the obvious lesson. He refuses to seek an off-ramp from Zero COVID even though it is plainly not working and plainly not sustainable.
Zero COVID is proving a greater threat to Chinese society than COVID itself.
Wuhan’s Jiangxia district is but the latest example of this. It will not be the last.
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Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. "Wuhan". Encyclopedia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/place/Wuhan. Accessed 28 July 2022.