Shenzhen forced into another Covid lockdown

The Chinese city of Shenzhen, home to much of the world’s technology manufacturing, is being locked down due to a surge in Covid cases.

The news was hinted at by the Shenzhen government site and widely covered. The Hong Kong Free Press reports that the entire city of 17 million people has been put into lockdown. It notes that China is still attempting to enforce a ‘zero-Covid’ policy, which aims to identify outbreaks of the virus early and impose severe restrictions in a bid to prevent its spread.

Neighbouring Hong Kong recently experienced a major spike in cases of the Omicron variant, but it seems to be following the epidemiological pattern experienced elsewhere, in which the spike in new cases falls off almost as rapidly as it grew. The image below is a screenshot from a Google search, which derives its data from the COVID-19 Data Repository by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.

The Shenzhen lockdown will have a significant effect on the global ICT supply chain. The world’s single biggest manufacturer of high-tech kit – Foxconn – is already cutting output, according to Reuters, while Huawei is headquartered there. The lockdown is supposed to last just a week but, as we have all learnt only too well over the past couple of years, that can be extended indefinitely at a moment’s notice.

China is one of a shrinking minority of countries that are still clinging onto the delusion of zero-Covid. With the very contagious but relatively low-impact Omicron, many countries belatedly concluded that the best policy was to focus on vaccinating and protecting the vulnerable, while letting the young and healthy take their chances, as we have always done with other respiratory viruses such as flu and the common cold.

According to the FT, in Hong Kong the vast majority of even vulnerable people remain unvaccinated, for some reason, which has contributed to an exceptionally high death rate. On top of that, the zero-Covid policy meant there had been very few cases there prior to this outbreak. The consequent near-absence of natural immunity among its population will also have exaggerated the sudden spike.

Nearly all of the relatively free world has finally realised, after two years of incredibly costly and largely futile experiments with lockdowns, that it’s not sustainable to try to completely insulate yourself from a virus such as Covid. The resulting costs are just too high. China, with its greater powers of central control, begs to differ. Maybe this lockdown will succeed in nipping the Shenzhen outbreak in the bud, but surely there will be another before long, and another after that.

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