Owing to strict measures of Zero Covid Policy, the original epicentre of the Covid-19 virus, Wuhan has shut down again as four new asymptomatic cases were reported recently.
Moreover, the head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, George Gaos, stepped down after five years in the post, after overseeing the preliminary probe into the world’s first outbreak of coronavirus.
Nobody is willing to say if the current strain of the Covid virus attacking the people is highly infectious like Delta or is a mild one and not lethal at all as the latest lockdown has sent shock waves across the country to Chinese citizens, only now recovering from the trauma of a lockdown that lasted months.
The communist nation still refuses to give up its zero Covid policy.
The Jiangxia district of Wuhan was shut down initially for three days with a looming threat of extension if fresh cases continued to be reported. Nearly a million people were confined to their homes as everything was closed down.
Offices, entertainment venues, clinics, agricultural produce markets, restaurants, and downed shutters. All places of worship have locked their doors and the movement of tourists is halted.
All public transport, from buses to subway services, was suspended, and residents were urged not to leave the district unless absolutely necessary.
Four more neighbourhoods were “designated as medium-risk, meaning residents cannot leave their compounds”.
Meanwhile, George Gao’s departure from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to leave a large gap in the efforts to not only contain the current strains of the virus but also plan ahead to handle future viral attacks.
The Centre has been also brought under the direct control of the “monolithic centrally controlled” National Health Commission and placed within a “new nominally streamlined bureau”, borne of pandemic-era calls for reform.
CNN reported the Oxford University-educated and internationally connected Gao, 60, will be succeeded by former president of the Nanjing Medical University Shen Hongbing, currently vice-director of the National Administration of Disease Prevention and Control, the new bureau established in 2021.
The media network says the “shift brings to an end the tenure of an internationally respected virologist who observers say grappled with the limitations of an agency with little sway over policy-making — a key distinction between China’s CDC and the US agency it was modelled after”.
Gao also oversaw the agency “at a time of increasing acrimony between China and the United States, made worse by questions over the origins of the coronavirus and accusations that China had suppressed its investigation”.
Prior to the pandemic, Gao was known for his work in Sierra Leone countering a 2014 Ebola outbreak, when he was still deputy director of the China CDC. He took up the director role in 2017.
Tracing Gao’s efforts in early 2020, CNN reported: “Gao was among a group of top-level health officials who travelled to Wuhan, the epicentre of the first known outbreak of Covid-19, before the disease became a global crisis in January 2020.
China has been criticized for its actions during that period, due to the three-week lag between local officials’ announcement of the outbreak and confirmation the virus could pass between people.
Gao played a key role in early scientific papers documenting the outbreak in Wuhan, and went on to develop one of the seven Covid-19 vaccines authorized for use in China.
” Gao’s crucial contribution to the tonnes of existing literature on how the coronavirus spread is this: “He has also been involved in research into the origins of the virus, suggesting, contrary to recently published studies, that a Wuhan market linked to early cases was not where the new virus emerged, but rather a place where it was able to spread rapidly between people.”
Within the Chinese government, however, he was seen as a “loose cannon” because he never shied away from saying what he thought was prudent. He once said the vaccines produced in China offered a “low protection rate”.
Gao has earlier “discussed the conditions under which China might relax its zero-Covid policy which is often considered a sensitive subject in China, where the policy is viewed as the personal directive of leader Xi Jinping”.