One of the mainland's most prominent infectious disease experts says the "irreversible" end of the Covid pandemic is finally in sight as the nation emerges from the shadow of the coronavirus.
Zhang Wenhong, a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), made the comments on the sidelines of the annual “two sessions” meetings in Beijing.
“After going through the highly infectious Omicron wave, we have entered a post-pandemic era. And this is irreversible,” said Zhang, who is also head of infectious diseases at the Huashan Hospital in Shanghai and led the Shanghai Medical Treatment Expert Group for the pandemic.
He said life had been brought back to normal after the removal of the country's Covid isolation since December, stressing that the effect on people’s livelihoods had been minimal.
Asked about the timing of the rolling back of Covid measures, Zhang said every country had its own considerations.
“Every country has their own understanding of the Covid situation, and will adjust its Covid strategies considering the amount of medical resources. That’s why there's a different timing for every country to drop the mask mandate, social distancing rules and open the border,” he said.
The mainland expert also said Hong Kong's decision last month to end compulsory masking had put a smile on people's faces, calling it a step in the right direction.
“Whether this is the right path, I guess it’s very clear. In the past month, both new Covid infections and Covid-related deaths in Hong Kong have been on the drop,” he said.
Liu Yangsheng, a senior fellow with the Taihe Institute think tank and an investment expert, echoed Zhang's views.
"It went through the peak period very, very quickly," he said of the Omicron wave. "And then the opening up occurred. All of a sudden, things started to move very quickly, running right through the Chinese New Year Holiday. Businesses are booming again in Beijing."
Liu said while there’s no compulsory mask wearing in Beijing, many people still mask up to protect themselves against the flu.
“You see people still wearing a mask, I think it’s out of a desire to prevent catching a cold,” he said. “Because there have been many cases of flu occurring in Beijing, in the Northern region where it is colder, I think this is a consideration. People are adopting masks as a means of having a healthier life."