Covid disinfection in China: “It gives the image of a heroic battle against an invisible enemy”

PublishedMay 14, 2022, 8:58 PM

In China, disinfection departments are dumping tons of chemicals in the hope of eradicating the coronavirus, despite a dubious anti-epidemic effect.

Workers equipped with personal protection spray disinfectant outside a shopping mall in Xi’an, north China’s Shaanxi province (January 2022).


China, where Covid-19 was initially detected at the end of 2019, has suffered a boomerang comeback since the beginning of the year with the Omicron variant, which makes it confine entire cities starting with the most populous, Shanghai.

In the arsenal of zero covid strategythe disinfection of surfaces is part of a “regular attack” against the virus, a municipal official explained there in early May.

‘Pretty futile’ efforts

On videos posted online, we can see employees in full suits spraying apartments whose inhabitants have been placed in a quarantine center.

Furniture, clothes, food: no personal effects escape the disinfectant droplets in the accommodation whose inhabitants had to leave the key for this purpose before leaving.

Outside, the wave of disinfection is falling on sidewalks, the walls of buildings and even parks. But in the opinion of experts interviewed by AFP, these efforts are quite futile in the face of a virus which spreads mainly through the air when you cough or sneeze.

“It is not necessary to disinfect on a large scale since infection by touching contaminated surfaces is not an important route of transmission”, observes Yanzhong Huang, public health specialist at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

Strategy contested by locals

Not enough to discourage the “dabai”, or “tall whites”, the employees in protective suits responsible for the task. Shanghai, confined since the beginning of April, had sterilized no less than 13,000 residential complexes as of May 2, or 140 million m2, said deputy mayor Liu Duo.

The zero Covid strategy followed by the communist regime, despite its cost to the economy and public freedoms, is increasingly contested in Shanghai by locals who complain of not seeing the end of it.

Forced disinfection does not help. A resident, who asked to remain anonymous, told AFP that his accommodation had been disinfected twice after returning from quarantine. Each time, her family had to wait at the door for an hour.

Negative impact on health

Specialists question the usefulness of these measures. While the virus can occasionally be transmitted via contaminated surfaces, “it does not survive long outside the human body,” Huang notes.

On the other hand, “the disproportionate use of chemicals such as chlorine can have a negative impact on health and the environment”, he notes.

For infectious disease specialist Leong Hoe Nam, of Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital in Singapore, outdoor disinfection has absolutely “no interest”. “It’s like drawing a snake’s legs,” he says, quoting a Chinese proverb.

policy in sprayer

China prides itself on having so far limited Covid deaths, in contrast to the carnage recorded in Western countries. The communist regime sees this as proof of the superiority of its authoritarian model.

Disinfecting both interior and exterior surfaces could also have above all a political motive, speculates Dr. Leong. “It is a very visible intervention which pleases senior officials” even if it hardly reduces the circulation of the Covid, he believes.

A work which also shows everyone the determination of the communist power to eradicate the virus, underlines Yanzhong Huang. “It gives the image of a heroic battle against an invisible enemy”.


The article is in French

Tags: Covid disinfection China image heroic battle invisible enemy


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