"For much of the past century, a strategy known as elimination was the gold
standard for dealing with deadly new viruses. But China’s abrupt reversal of
its “zero-COVID” policy, which took it to an extreme, has cast doubts over the
approach and left a gaping hole in the world’s game plan for the next pandemic.
Even outside China, elimination measures such as stay-at-home orders proved
politically unpopular and difficult to carry out. With some medical experts
doubting whether airborne respiratory pathogens can be suppressed, global
public health officials are now without a consensus on how best to contain new
Early in the pandemic, proponents argued the strategy was morally,
scientifically and economically superior to so-called mitigation approaches,
such as slowing the spread of disease through physical distancing and limiting
social gatherings or letting the virus loose among the young while protecting
more vulnerable members of the population.
As cases spread throughout the world, the full weight of the policy emerged,
demanding strict border controls, lockdowns and extensive testing and
contact-tracing. But it also required fast action and global coordination,
which was difficult to achieve.
“In hindsight, people could have said let’s throw everything we can at this
pandemic and try to stamp it out,” said epidemiologist Michael Baker, who was
the architect of New Zealand’s early elimination COVID-19 response. “I think we
had a reasonable chance of doing it. But the opportunity is very early on in a
pandemic. Once there’s global distribution, you’ve got a huge challenge.”
China’s experience, marked by monthslong lockdowns, isolation and family
separations, showed simultaneously that elimination was possible and that it
came at a cost too high for most countries, especially democratic ones, to
The first SARS was successfully eliminated in 2002-2003. We could possibly have
done it again with SARS-COV-2 but bungled the opportunity.
Via Violet Blue’s Pandemic Roundup
: February 23, 2023
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics