Huge swaths of the nation’s elderly remain vulnerable, scientists say, and a surge in deaths and hospitalizations may be inevitable.
Originally published December 2, 2022 in The New York Times
As one country after another succumbed to outbreaks this year, China kept the coronavirus at bay, buying valuable time to prepare for the inevitable: a variant of the virus so shifty and contagious that China, too, would struggle to contain it.
But rather than laying the groundwork for that scenario, China stepped up its commitment to “zero Covid,” deploying snap lockdowns and contact tracing.
In the meantime, daily vaccinations fell to record lows. Critical-care beds remained in short supply, even as workers built testing booths and isolation facilities. Research on homegrown mRNA vaccines failed to keep up with the fast-mutating virus.
Now, the costs of that approach are piling up, putting China in a bind from which there appears to be no easy escape, scientists said in interviews.