China: Tons of disinfectant to fight COVID

They spray everything: streets, apartments, pets… Chinese disinfection services use tons of chemicals in the hope of eradicating the coronavirus, although the effectiveness of these actions is more than doubtful.

In China, where the COVID-19 was detected for the first time at the end of 2019, there has been a resurgence of the pandemic since the beginning of the year, due to the omicron variant, which forced the confinement of entire cities, starting with the most populous, Shanghai.

Within the set of measures that make up the strategy “COVID zero” from the Chinese authorities, there is general disinfection.

In videos posted on social media, employees dressed in protective suits can be seen spraying apartments whose residents have been sent to quarantine centers but have had to hand over their home keys to authorities first.

Furniture, clothes, food. Nothing gets rid of being sprayed with these disinfectant microdroplets.

In public spaces, sidewalks, building facades and parks are disinfected.

But, in the opinion of the experts consulted by AFP, these efforts are practically in vain in the face of a virus that spreads through the air when you cough or sneeze.

“It is not necessary to disinfect in this massive way because infection from contact with contaminated surfaces is not an important route of transmission,” said Yanzhong Huang, a public health expert at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

But these opinions do not intimidate the “dabai”, which in Chinese means “great whites”, as the employees who carry out this cleaning task are called, whose protective suits are white.

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Shanghai, where a confinement has prevailed since the beginning of April, disinfected some 13,000 residential complexes until May 2, that is, 140 million square meters, explains a municipal official, Liu Duo.

“Unseen Enemy”

The strategy “COVID zero” adopted by the communist regime has a high economic cost, violates certain individual freedoms and is increasingly questioned in Shanghai, where the inhabitants say they do not see the light at the end of the tunnel.

And these disinfections increase discontent. A city resident, who asked that his name not be released, told AFP that his house had been disinfected twice after he returned from quarantine.

Each time, his family had to wait outside for an hour.

Experts wonder what these measures are for, since although the virus can be transmitted in some cases by contaminated surfaces, “it does not survive long outside the human body,” says Huang.

However, “disproportionate use of chemicals such as chlorine can have a negative impact on health and the environment,” it adds.

For infection expert Leong Hoe Nam, from Mount Elizabeth Ninth Hospital in Singapore, disinfection of public spaces “has no reason to be.”

But China boasts of having limited deaths from coronavirus so far, compared to the catastrophe registered in Western countries. The communist regime sees in these figures the positive effect of its authoritarian model.

Furthermore, according to Leong, disinfecting houses and public places could also have political reasons.

“It is a very visual act that pleases the senior officials” even if it does not reduce the circulation of the virus, he estimates.

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The images also show citizens the government’s determination to stamp out the virus, Yanzhong Huang stressed.

“It shows an image of a heroic battle against an invisible enemy,” summarizes the expert.

AFP is a major global information agency that offers fast, verified and comprehensive coverage.

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