China’s response to the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 has been unique among large nations. A combination of strict lockdowns, aggressive quarantines and mandatory testing requirements did much to prevent COVID-19 from spreading widely through mainland China. But as a result of these at-times severe, yet effective prevention measures, most people in China have not caught or even been exposed to the coronavirus.

As Elanah Uretsky, a medical anthropologist who studies the effects of Chinese health policy at Brandeis University, explains, “China has not followed the standard path of a pandemic where people slowly gain immunity through exposure or vaccination, allowing society to open up over time.”

Following weeks of unusual protests across many cities in China, the government has now begun to rapidly loosen its strict “zero-COVID” policies. Many experts are worried that the virus will run rampant through a vulnerable population. In her story, Uretsky explains how China pursued a policy of zero-COVID and why “in the coming months, the Chinese people may face the pain and suffering that many other places experienced in 2020 and 2021.”

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Daniel Merino

Assistant Science Editor & Co-Host of The Conversation Weekly Podcast

The Chinese government has loosened restrictions designed to limit the spread of COVID-19. Kevin Frayer/Stringer via Getty Images

China’s loosened COVID-19 policies – following years of aggressive lockdowns and quarantines – have left the country vulnerable

Elanah Uretsky, Brandeis University

Strict lockdowns, quarantines and testing have prevented many people in China from catching COVID-19. With concerns over Chinese vaccine efficacy and uptake, China may be facing a looming COVID-19 surge.

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