As most of the world moves on from COVID-19, millions are held prisoners in their homes in Shanghai, China, due to the Omicron wave. The videos of thousands of people wailing and some even jumping to their death from the windows of high-rise apartment complexes are snapping people out of their love affair with draconian lockdowns.
Apart from a few authoritarian holdouts like China, California, and Canada, the rest of the world is in the process of moving on from COVID-19. The economy is open, and most mandates have been lifted. For instance, in Norway, the Director of the People’s Health Institute (FHI), Camilla Stoltenberg, recently admitted she is convinced that the COVID-19 policies this winter were too strict in response to the Omicron wave.
Similar sentiments are heard from media outlets, policymakers, and bureaucrats worldwide. The most important reason is the mild Omicron variant that has proven to be like a natural vaccination that has rendered COVID-19 into something akin to seasonal flu.
Another almost equally important reason, however, is the war in Ukraine. When problems like the threat of nuclear conflict are looming, a pandemic with a greater than 99% survival rate pales in comparison.
And now, a third reason has allowed many people to wake up from their draconian enchantment, namely China’s Zero-COVID policy. While the rest of the world saw Omicron as a blessing in terms of beating out more dangerous variants, China has handled it by holding millions of people in Shanghai imprisoned in their homes for weeks, without being able to shop for food or other necessities.
The delivery services are working around the clock to get groceries to people, but they cannot handle the load, and many people are reportedly starving in their homes. Thousands of people are wailing their despair from the windows.
Government drones are flying around instructing people to “squelch the soul’s desire for freedom,” but people are growing more agitated by the hour. Leaked videos show confrontations between hungry citizens and the police.
Why does China have such a totalitarian response to the mild Omicron variant? Vanity. During the initial outbreak in 2020, China bragged that they were COVID-free while the rest of the world struggled with the disease. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) used its Zero-COVID policy to make a point of how Western freedom does not work as well as communism.
If they were to let Omicron run free, it would mean an admission that they were wrong. To save face, it seems they are willing to hurt their population and their economy by treating Omicron as something akin to the Black Death.
From the outside, China’s draconian response looks like the actions of madmen, and it provides an uncomfortable mirror to reflect on their exaggerated responses. China’s Zero-COVID policy was the inspiration for nations worldwide in dealing with the virus. Now, many are seeing its harm more clearly and slowly distancing themselves from those policies. However, few are willing to admit it out loud. It is not only the CCP that is trying to save face.