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China said it will continue with stringent curbs to disrupt the coronavirus’s domestic transmission, suggesting the nation won’t break away from its Covid-Zero strategy anytime soon.

The country won’t change tack since “the outbreaks in China’s neighbors and around the world remain elevated, creating a complicated and grave challenge for this winter and next spring," Wu Liangyou, an official with China’s National Health Commission, said at a briefing in Beijing on Saturday.

Growing vaccination rates and the ability of the highly infectious delta variant to sidestep curbs had prompted countries from Australia to Singapore to pivot from eliminating Covid to learning to treat it as an endemic. That left China as the only country still tethered to the so-called Covid-Zero strategy.

This Is How Long Experts Think China Will Stick With Covid Zero

But adherence to Covid Zero has seen China mounting increasingly disruptive restrictions to stop the variant’s more frequent incursions into the country. It’s now battling a domestic delta outbreak that has spread to 20 out of 31 provinces, the broadest since the pathogen first emerged in Wuhan in late 2019.

Zeng Guang, one of China’s top Covid-19 advisers, said that while it’s impossible to eradicate the virus, the decision on when to loosen domestic restrictions would have to take into account both public health and economic and social considerations. 

“Ultimately politicians will have to make the call." he said Saturday.

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