China’s Zero COVID policy is being criticised as a means of legitimising the abandonment of public health in the West.

First published: Nov 2022.

I nteresting that China is criticised roundly in the Western media for its zero COVID aim, not for the way it is trying to achieve it.

Shouldn’t the critique be of specific policy rather than an aim to protect people from an infection that would kill millions if allowed to spread?

The Spectator, 6-Nov-2022

Suppression and elimination can be achieved in many ways – not just lockdowns. Mass testing (which is being done in China), ventilation, cleaning air, air sterilisation, and high-grade masking at population level would all be highly effective.

So rather than critiquing them for aiming to suppress a virus that would kill and disable millions if allowed to spread, why isn’t there critique that there are better ways of containing airborne transmission, rather than criticising the aim in itself?

To me, this makes a lot of these pieces disingenuous and propaganda – seemingly normalising the Western response that has devastated public health and healthcare as some sort of a positive.

There seems to be very little discussion of the consequences of allowing the spread – in terms of severe disease, and long COVID – which we know much more about now than we did years ago. The consequences would be devastating, so why is the mainstream media obsessed with more than a billion people to this?

Yes, there are very legitimate critiques of the pandemic response in China, but the aim to maintain maximal suppression is not one of them. The lack of using effective airborne measures is a legitimate critique but is never mentioned. Why?

If the mainstream media paid even a tenth of attention to looking at the consequences across the western world right now, and discussing how this is unsustainable (four waves per year, millions of people affected by chronic illness, continuing excess deaths, societal disruption), we would be in a different place.

The Guardian, 15-Oct-2022

It honestly feels like China-bashing is being used to normalise mass-disability and loss of life in the West. It is just another distraction from the descent into ableism and fascism in many parts of the world here...

The propaganda we have seen in mainstream media over the past few years (and the decades before on climate change, and so many other public health issues) and the consequences it has had cannot be overstated. And we criticise media in other countries as if our own media is not fully complicit.

Ultimately, if you maintain R below 1, you reach a state of elimination which lasts for a period of time. Can that be achieved with cleaner air and more widespread wearing of high-quality masks? I think so. It will not eradicate infection but will keep it at very low levels.

To me, the difference between elimination and suppression is on a spectrum, not a binary. If you aim for suppression you may achieve periods of elimination, but either aim is good.

To me the policies do not look different to achieve this: they all prioritise airborne precautions that we know are very effective but underused.

PMP Magazine


  • Masks Protect Schoolkids from COVID despite What Antiscience Politicians Claim | Scientific American
  • Do masks in school affect kids' speech and social skills? | NPR
  • Do masks really harm kids? Here's what the science says. | National Geographic
  • China Covid: Millions back in lockdown as Beijing doubles down on zero-Covid | BBC News
  • China insists it will stick with zero-Covid strategy | Financial Times.
  • China sticks with zero-COVID as quarantine video causes outrage | Al Jazeera

  • — AUTHOR —

    Dr Deepti Gurdasani, Senior Lecturer in Epidemiology, Statistical Genetics, Machine Learning, Queen Mary University of London.

    • Text: This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article on 9 November 2022 with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected, and published with the author’s consent. | The author of the tweets writes in a personal capacity.
    • Cover: Adobe Stock/HNFOTO..

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