Western Scientists Cheered On China’s Covid Repression

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Many public-health elites still won’t admit it was a mistake for the West to adopt Beijing’s strategy.

China’s zero-Covid policies have recently come under criticism from public-health leaders—including those at the World Health Organization—who once held them up as a model for the West.

“China’s success rests largely with a strong administrative system that it can mobilise in times of threat, combined with the ready agreement of the Chinese people to obey stringent public health procedures,” the Lancet editorialized on March 7, 2020. Western countries, it added, “must abandon their fears of the negative short-term public and economic consequences that may follow from restricting public freedoms as part of more assertive infection control measures.”

That hasn’t worn well. The negative social and economic consequences of lockdowns in the West—from learning losses and destroyed small businesses to alcoholism and drug abuse—weren’t “short-term.” Nor were China’s draconian zero-Covid policies, which three years later are only slowly being eased.

As hospitals in New York filled up, public-health experts fawned at China’s putative command-and-control of Covid. Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute and one the media’s top-cited public-health scolds, tweeted on March 27, 2020, that “China w/ 4 times the population of the US was able to flatten their curve.” He added: “Our (US) lack of learning from a region that was hit months before us is striking.”

Dr. Topol still insists that China’s repressive policies “worked well until containment of Omicron became impossible,” though most people now acknowledge that they were socially and economically unsustainable. Many, however, still won’t admit it was a mistake for Western democracies to follow China’s strategy. Why did they believe it was a good idea?

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