Dr Nick Coatsworth says world in most perilous moment of the pandemic
A top Australian doctor has warned that the world is facing the most perilous moment of the Covid pandemic as the virus runs out of control in China because of its draconian zero-Covid policy.
Former federal Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Nick Coatsworth said China’s insistence on zero-Covid rather than learning to live with the virus like the rest of world could now lead to ‘significant’ Covid spread globally and even death.
The controversial zero-Covid policy to try and eliminate the virus through harsh restrictions and quarantine measures has failed because of the Chinese government’s inability to get elderly residents vaccinated and because of its decision to use inferior local vaccines over superior foreign ones.
China has largely been able to prevent a Covid catastrophe by enforcing strict lockdown measures that envelop entire cities, thus reducing the spread of the virus and preventing the old and frail coming in contact with it.
However such a lockdown was unsustainable in the long term, and nationwide protests this week against strict measures that have been abandoned elsewhere in the world will now likely spark a widespread Covid outbreak.
Dr Coatsworth said the ‘genie is out of the bottle’ and warned China was particularly at risk of a major outbreak because, unlike other countries, its citizens had neither had access to western vaccines nor had they bolstered natural immunity through exposure to the virus.
In recent days, Chinese police have clashed with thousands protesting the country’s draconian Covid lockdowns
China has been pursuing a controversial zero-Covid policy by trying to eliminate the virus through harsh restrictions and quarantine measures
Appearing on the Today Show on Wednesday, Dr Coatsworth said the chaos in China was a bad sign for the rest of the world.
‘I’d almost say that this is the most serious moment for the globe in the pandemic,’ he said.
‘China has had a particularly stringent Covid Zero policy but unfortunately that hasn’t been accompanied by an ability to convince elderly Chinese to get vaccinated.
‘So we have a situation now where in a country of 1.4 billion people, only 40 per cent of over 80s have received a third dose of Covid-19 vaccine.’
Dr Coatsworth said China would no longer be able to ‘hold back’ Covid as it spreads through the nation.
‘With the Omicron variant being so infectious it will spread now and the genie is certainly out of the bottle,’ he said.
‘The Chinese government won’t be able to hold back Covid now and it will spread through that population and we will see significant health impact and deaths.
‘Whatever one thinks of the Chinese government, I think the solidarity of the world needs to be behind the Chinese people here who are going to suffer in a way that perhaps we haven’t seen from the COVID-19 pandemic thus far.’
He also said the situation in China showed zero-Covid strategy was unsustainable.
‘If you’re going to adopt such a stringent strategy of Covid zero for so long and the most authoritarian government in the world will eventually find that their population rebels against it,’ he said.
‘I mean we talk about pandemic fatigue in Australia, this is on a completely different scale, obviously in China, but if you’re going to adopt that policy, you better make sure that you’re convincing your population to get vaccinated?
‘Whatever the reason, they have not been able to convince elderly Chinese to get vaccinated and of course they are going to bear the brunt of this wave sweeping across China at the moment.’
Hundreds could be heard asking for President Xi Jinping to resign in remarkable scenes from the communist country
In the city of Shanghai, videos posted on social media by foreign journalists show thousands of people taking to the streets to remember the victims and to protest against Covid restrictions.
The Communication University of China in Nanjing was trending on Weibo on Saturday night, with one hashtag receiving over 180 million views. Students at the university gathered chanting slogans such as ‘long live the people’ and turning on the lights on their phone as a tribute to victims of the fire in Urumqi.
In recent days, Chinese police have clashed with thousands protesting the country’s draconian Covid lockdowns – as unprecedented civil unrest gripped the nation.
Demonstrations erupted in at least seven cities – including Shanghai, Nanjing and Guangzhou – with violence breaking out between local cops and furious protesters.
The largest demonstration appeared in Shanghai – home to 26million residents – with many boldly demanding President Xi Jinping resign.
And Dr Coatsworth warned: ‘the virus eventually dictates what you have to do as a policy maker.
‘Even if you’re the most powerful policy maker in the world, the virus will overcome the power of Xi Jinping and he will obviously have to have to adapt policies.
‘But this might be the most significant impact that we’ve seen in the pandemic where you actually have protests across multiple Chinese cities against a world leader who has held absolute authority up until the past week or so.
‘It’s interesting to see how it plays out considering where the rest of the world is with this one.’