context: There is rising public discontent with the recent scaling-up of COVID-19 prevention measures across localities. Experts are now calling to end anti-COVID-19 campaigns and let public health governance return to normal.

It is now time to normalise COVID-19 administration, Zeng Guang 曾光 China CDC chief epidemiologist, professor at Peking Univesity told the 4th Hongqiao International Health Technology Innovation Forum on 8 Nov 2021. According to Zeng, the PRC’s COVID-19 governance encompasses three stages

  • early 2020 – early 2020
    • characterised by war-time, top-down measures: mobility restrictions, screening and quarantine, and clinical emergency care
  • mid 2020 – now
    • characterised by mass vaccination aiming at mass immunisation
  • from now for the next two years
    • end of campaign-style unconventional measures; institutionalising and normalising public health governance

The state-led prevention regime has been highly successful, Zeng said, thanks to

  • well-designed strategies
  • capacities to correct mistakes
  • strong mobilisation and enforcement power

The key to success is mass immunisation, and in the PRC it can only be delivered by mass vaccination, said Zeng. This is because the infection rates in the PRC are too low to provide natural immunity to the entire population. To combat the more contagious delta variants, Zeng highlights

  • rolling out booster shots for people who have received two jabs
  • experimenting with mixed COVID-19 vaccines

Overall, Zeng says the COVID-19 virus can never be completely ‘eradicated’, and the public and policy makers have to learn to coexist with it. To this end, Zeng emphasises

  • science- and evidence-based policy making
  • robust economic growth