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“Why aren’t China’s Covid lockdown measures working?”

“Why aren’t China’s Covid lockdown measures working?” asks Tom Whipple, Science editor of the Times:

The original R rate of the Wuhan strain was 3, meaning that each infected person passed it to three others. Estimating the R of Omicron is near-impossible — but we know it is vastly harder to contain. It has evolved to spread more effectively and infect more easily.

In the rest of the world, its spread, as well as the Delta variants, has given us “hybrid immunity”. People have been infected after being vaccinated, and the population has a soup of varied antibodies working against infection and serious illness.

In China, they have less a soup of antibodies than a single distilled flavour — from averagely-effective vaccines designed to repel a virus that no longer exists. Omicron has plenty of virgin territory to conquer.

Despite some of the debates we are having today, at a very basic level and on their own terms, lockdowns clearly work. China is proof of that; if people can’t meet each other they can’t infect each other.

But restricting people’s lives entirely is impossible. Eventually both the virus and human nature find ways to circumvent restrictions. Only a country with the state apparatus of China could have hoped to have maintained rolling lockdowns so strict, for so long, that it could persist with zero Covid.

Why is President Xi doing it? Western scientists are increasingly bemused. One answer is vaccination — the country isn’t where it needs to be. Although overall more than 90 per cent of the 1.4 billion Chinese have received two doses and a third booster shot, the rates tail off among the elderly. According to the latest statistics, only 40 per cent of the over-80s have been fully vaccinated. But this just leads to another question: why not?

Some Chinese speculate that the older population, especially, have been reluctant to get boosted and lulled into a false sense of security by strict measures and state propaganda that lauds the country’s lower cases and death rates compared to the West. Distrust in vaccine safety, inevitably, also plays a part.

But another reason China is still focused on prevention, not treatment, could be the lack of intensive care beds — less than four for every 100,000 people, according to the National Health Commission in Beijing, which means a large-scale Covid outbreak could have disastrous consequences. In Britain, the figure at the start of the pandemic was 7.3 critical care beds per 100,000 people, less than half the average in other European nations (15.9).

In its pursuit of zero Covid, China was not blessed by geography, it was instead blessed with a powerful state and fewer qualms regarding civil liberties. What is baffling to outside observers is that the same state that is so effective at imposing extremely severe restrictions on its people is so ineffective at getting all of them vaccinated, or providing enough hospital beds.

Don’t fixate on Mr Whipple’s use of the word “blessed” in “blessed with a powerful state and fewer qualms regarding civil liberties”; he clearly means it ironically. Alongside many others, he is finally beginning to understand. A pity it comes so late, but better late than never. One day it may no longer baffle him that a society that runs on lies cannot get science right, and that a society that runs on force cannot get anything right.

25 comments to “Why aren’t China’s Covid lockdown measures working?”

  • Paul Marks

    I have little idea what is going on with Covid in China – it is a more closed society even than Russia. But I do know that lockdowns cannot stop a virus.

    The virus was created in China (although with the funding help of Tony Fauci and Peter Daszak – the American government and the EcoHealth Alliance) and then either escaped or was deliberately released in 2019. The World Health Organisation, and Tony Fauci in America, then spread the legend that it was not dangerous – then (when the virus had been spread to many countries) they suddenly changed their tune and started demanding lockdowns (see above – lockdowns do not work) in order wreak Western economies – getting rid of what is left of a free economy and replacing it with a PRC style Corporate State (Fascism – in all but name) has long been the goal of the international establishment – hence Agenda 21, Agenda 2030 (with its control of land and of culture) and all the rest of it.

    Early Treatment was systematically smeared, both by the Western “Public Health” bureaucracies and by the Corporate media. And dangerous injections pushed.

    It is all been a rather grim in the West. If this is having a blowback effect in China itself – well the ordinary people do NOT deserve such a blowback, but the CCP dictatorship certainly does deserve the blowback.

    As for Chinese people, like many Russians, being wary of the injections – well, if so, ordinary Chinese people are wiser than Tom Whipple of the Times.

    The simple mindedness of many Westerners who, even after all the lies of the three years, still believe the official propaganda of the Public Health bureaucracy, the media and the drug companies, is very hard to explain.

    I can understand why people might have believed them a few years ago – but not after years of experience that they are lying.

    How many times do the establishment have to lie to people before Westerners stop believing them? Before Westerners develop the more realistic attitude that even if not the exact opposite of the truth, what they see on the television, and read in the newspapers, should be treated as either lies, or (at least) as inaccurate.

    Of course, I am giving Tom Whipple the benefit of the doubt – and assuming he believes what he writes.

    Overall, I would not trust anything in the Times – too many times, when I have had the chance to check their stories, what the Times prints turns out to be wildly wrong – indeed establishment propaganda.

    Notice there is no mention of Early Treatment in the article – it is all “hospital beds” and “vaccinations”.

    “A society that runs on lies cannot get science right, and a society that runs on force cannot get anything right”.

    Yes Mr Whipple – but you do not seem to grasp that you are not just describing China, you are describing many Western nations as well.

    In everything from rigged elections, to the violent scum who make up the FBI attacking people who have done nothing wrong.

    Covid? Everything that was pushed by the bureaucracies (government and corporate – not that there is any real distinction anymore) in London and Washington was based on “force” and justified by “lies”.

  • “Only a country with the state apparatus of China could have hoped to have maintained rolling lockdowns so strict, for so long, that it could persist with zero Covid.”

    The biggest red flag in all China: Believing anything promulgated by the Chinese government.

  • djm

    Only a real throbber would come out with tosh like “At a very basic level and on their own terms, lockdowns clearly work.”

  • Steven R

    Who says they aren’t doing their intended job: keeping people oppressed.

    It isn’t about disease, it’s about keeping the CCP in control. Xi wants to be Mao 2.0. Locking down a city like Shanghai is more about sending a message than anything else: follow the program or else. He doesn’t need to send in tanks like in Tiananmen Square. He can just shutter the place you work at or your school. Even the people up in arms about not being able to get money out of the banks are told they can’t have their money because the banks are investing it. But at the end of the day, those people still don’t have their cash.

    And if a few million starve in the process? Meh. There are plenty more where they came from.

    And it has the added benefit of keeping people distracted from what the Chinese economy is doing.

  • Chester Draws

    Despite some of the debates we are having today, at a very basic level and on their own terms, lockdowns clearly work.

    In NZ when Delta arrived we went into lockdown. It continued to spread. Giving up, we left lockdown, and rates declined. How anyone can think lockdowns “work’ is beyond me. The evidence right in front of them, Public Health ignore it.

    However no Western country actually went into lockdown. All our supermarkets and such continued to operate. We just stopped people moving about so much. But without actually prohibiting movement, lots of people ignored the rules, so cases spread. And because it was illegal, the new cases kept quiet about it, so track and trace no longer worked.

    China actually locks down. The social cost and monetary cost is ludicrous, but they do actually go the whole hog.

  • Steven R

    But China doesn’t care. China never cares because that’s a quick way to end up dead.

    Mao says kill the sparrows, so you kill the sparrows. The next year the grasshoppers that would have been eaten by the sparrows eat all the grain and cause a famine. Sure, some biologists and agricultural experts could have told Mao that is a stupid idea, but disagreeing with the boss is a good way to be labeled a counter-revolutionary and shot.

    Mao says empty the schools and send the students to rural farms. So you empty the schools and send the students to rural farms. Educational experts could have told Mao that they don’t know how to farm not to mention China would be destroying the next generation of engineers, doctors, scientists, etc., China will need to be a technological power, but again, counter-revolutionary and shot.

    Fast forward 70 years and we’re right back to the same thing. Xi says lockdown everything, so you lockdown everything. Starvation, economic ruin, mass unrest, all these things are easily foreseen, but who wants to be the guy to tell Xi that it’s a bad idea and risk being called a counter-revolutionary or corrupt and shot?

    Xi is no different than Mao because Xi wants to be no different than Mao. consequences be damned.

  • David Norman

    Chester. I think, but could be wrong, that when Whipple says that in their own terms lockdowns work he means only that a perfect lockdown works because nobody meets anyone else so there is no opportunity for the virus to spread. Of course that is, as you say, an impossibility, because in the real world people have to go out; in practice therefore lockdowns don’t work. China appears to be learning that the hard way and, of course, to the considerable detriment of people who have the misfortune to live there.

  • johnd2008

    I live in a seaport in NZ and we have the cruise Ships returning after two and a half years. It is amazing the number of passengers we see wandering the streets wearing masks.Another thing that does not work. We also still have some of the locals doing their shopping in the supermarkets wearing masks, I feel sorry for them that they cannot see the futility ..

  • Ra Henare

    Interesting observation about lockdowns.
    In Phnom Penh, Cambodia the city was divided in to Zones, Green, Orange, Red.
    In the RED zone residents were not allowed out of their homes, police/soldiers patrolled.
    Army trucks delivered food to the door a few times a week.

    Yet it appeared that there were still a few new cases…..
    Meanwhile in the orange zone a daily visit to the market was allowed by a representative of the family.

    Did it slow down the spread. Probably but how to measure?

    Observing actions around the world(I travel a lot). I think lockdowns were, in hindsight, a failure.
    The maybe reduction in Covid cases caused all sorts of havoc in the rest of the community both socially, economically and healthwise.(mental health especially)

  • bobby b

    I see parallels between the arguments concerning possession of weapons and the imposition of lockdowns.

    If you argue that we should be allowed to possess weapons, you have to acknowledge that some harm will result from those weapons in society, but your point is that there would be greater harm in disarming the citizenry.

    If you argue that the state ought not be imposing lockdowns in the face of new communicable disease, you have to acknowledge that some harm will result from allowing full constant contact, but your point is that there would be greater harm in ordering society to lock down.

    Both controversies seem to attract lots of “but if we can save one child!” outbursts, but we’re choosing between two imperfect solutions, and using different sets of values in the judging of those solutions.

  • Paul Marks

    Fourth paragraph “lockdowns clearly work” – the establishment, and their media lackies – such as the Times, have clearly learned NOTHING.

    This Times article could have been written in 2020 – its total ignorance (and that is giving the writer the benefit of the doubt – it is assuming that he actually believes what he is writing) is astounding. All the old fallacies are trotted out in the article – as if they had never been refuted. Does the “science correspondent” of the Times also believe the temperature graphs that the American government trots out (with historic temperature figures that blatantly contradict the real numbers – recorded in the old records, which have not yet been destroyed) – most likely he does believe the “warming trend” propaganda of the American government. Does he also believe that the world is flat?

    Mr Thomas Whipple does not even mention the dangers of the “vaccine” injections – he writes as if there were no dangers at all. I am sorry, but in November 2022 I find it impossible to believe that he does not know of the dangers, including the danger of death.

  • Paul Marks

    Surely even Mr Whipple must see the irony of writing as his concluding line “a society that runs on lies cannot get science right, and a society that runs on force cannot get anything right”.

    Does he not grasp that in this concluding line he has just described the United States and the United Kingdom and many other Western nations (not their society – their state policy) over the last several years?

    Perhaps I am being uncharitable, even stupid, perhaps what Mr Whipple is really doing is attacking the Western countries that have followed the lockdown and injections policy (rather than a policy of Early Treatment) – under the mask of attacking the People’s Republic of China.

    Perhaps pretending he is just attacking the PRC is the only way Mr Whipple can get a condemnation of Western policy into the Times newspaper.

  • They really needed to lock down the reporters, too, by shutting off the transmitters and printing presses — it not being safe for the technicians who had to keep those up and running — and locking the journalists inside their residences.

    Then, perhaps, we might have gotten more people to understand the iniquity of the lockdowns, which were often extended to try to punish the Icky Class people the journalists don’t like.

  • But this just leads to another question: why not?

    Because they don’t work & might actually kill you? Those seem like fairly good reasons to be a tad hesitant.

  • David Wallace

    Ted Schuerzinger,
    It seemed to me that the icky class people were still expected to stock supermarket shelves, keep electricity generation working, sewage pipes clear, buses and trains and delivery vans moving.
    The Cloud Dwellers, real or self-styled, otoh – and you are right to include journalists here – found “lockdowns” meant a visible manifestation of high status by being able to WFH, with no cut in living standards, a soupcon of vicarious danger, and a dizzying sense of worthiness.
    When in 50 years time son of covid appears, they will do it all again, because it is just too irrestibly delicious.
    So yes, iniquitous as well as ineffectual.

  • Paul Marks

    What Perry said – the injections do not work very well (and that is putting the matter charitably) and carry very severe risks.

    The risk/benefit calculation may (may – perhaps) be in favour of the injections if a person is elderly and/or have other health problems such as being very fat and having compromised lungs (and, to be fair, Mr Whipple, if that is a real name, is talking about elderly people in China) – but for young and fit people it is utter madness to accept the injections. Yet governments keep pushing the injections.

    I do not know China, but in Russia there is a industry in fake Covid “vaccination” certificates (including electronic ones) – and quite understandably.

    As for the West – even Japan, where everyone was exposed to the virus and yet the death rate was very low, is w pushing the injections.


    It appears to be some insane international Corporate State Cult.

    There is no medical purpose for this general injection policy.

  • But this just leads to another question: why not?

    Because they don’t work & might actually kill you? Those seem like fairly good reasons to be a tad hesitant. (Perry de Havilland (London), November 27, 2022 at 1:28 pm)

    True, Perry, but this may tangential to the real question (which might even be Tom Whipple’s question): why haven’t a bunch of Xi’s state goons gone round 99% of the elderly in China sticking needles into them, whether said elderly wanted it or not? The coercive logic of the Chinese state detailed in the OP article would have had me asking the question even if Whipple hadn’t.

  • China has had a one-child policy for a very long time. That means an aging society, with the young expected to work double-hard to take care of the old. What could be better for the state than a disease that kills the old? The only fly in the ointment is that many of the apparatchiks and most of the nomenklatura are old. I would not be surprised to learn the uppercrust have access to much better vaccines and treatments.

    This does not bode well. China could catch a bad case of ‘Après Moi, Le Déluge’. And that’s even worse than Covid, and more likely to cause a breakout.

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    I made the same point as Ellen, in an earlier comment. I think I also added, or should have added, the pollution of the air and the water, and the land. If everything breaks down, some libertarians might be able to sell guns so ordinary citizens can protect themselves. set up your syndicates now!

  • JohnK

    When in 50 years time son of covid appears, they will do it all again, because it is just too irresistibly delicious.


    50 years? You are an optimist. I imagine the likes of Fauci and Daszak are already financing interesting new lines of research. Watch this space.

  • Paul Marks

    Ellen – Dictator Xi got rid of the one child policy, quite some time ago (perhaps that is the reason that some, some, of the international establishment do not like Xi – they are very much into getting rid of most humans, whereas Dictator Xi wants most people to stay alive – so he can be their Dicator).

    Dictator Xi is very much into power – he wants (needs) humans, so that he can feel big by bossing them about. So, he is not really on board with “Georgia Stones” style getting-rid-of-the-humans.

    Niall – why has Dictator Xi not sent out his goons to forcibly inject all the elderly?

    An interesting question – perhaps because he knows the injections do not work very well, and it just is not worth the bother. He has enough protests on his hands already.

    Unlike Tom Whipple who, if one is to take him literally (he may be writing ironically – hiding an attack on the demented tyrannical policies followed in many Western countries, under a supposed attack on China) is “a bit of a nutter” to use slang term.

  • Paul Marks

    Demography is a serious business – China is developing a shortage of young people, this is why Dictator Xi changed the policy (too late?) of his predecessors.

    Taiwan is in an even worse position – its “liberalism” has more in common, in social policies, with San Francisco than with Prime Minister Gladstone.

    Mr Putin long ago noticed that Russia is also in serious trouble – but he has allowed abortions to continue, still he did manage to get Russian fertility back up to 1.8 (2 or higher is needed if population is to not to decline).

    Sadly, Ukraine went full “modern West”, and its fertility rate (even before Mr Putin’s invasion) was 1.4

    Essentially Ukraine is in the demographic death spiral that so many Western nations are in – Mr Putin did not need to invade, just wait and Ukraine (between emigration and lack of babies) would be empty anyway.

    I rather doubt that President Z. was going to launch a conservative counter revolution in Ukraine – he always seemed very modern-West to me.

    Still a vast majority of Ukrainians voted for him – so that is that.

  • JohnK


    Putin is 70, and the average Russian man checks out at 68. Putin does not drink, but he doesn’t look very well to me. Time is not on his side, he couldn’t wait for demographics to help him out in Ukraine.

  • Paul Marks


    Good point.

    And certain injections may not have helped the health of Mr Putin – to put the matter mildly.

  • Agammamon

    lockdowns clearly work. China is proof of that; if people can’t meet each other they can’t infect each other

    . . .

    But restricting people’s lives entirely is impossible.

    Leave it to a ‘science editor’ to say two contradictory things one in two sequential sentences. If its impossible to 100% restrict people’s lives then, no, lockdowns do not work. Because you can’t actually lock down.