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Prognosis

Why It’s So Hard for China to Exit Covid Zero

  • Health system hindered by lopsided distribution of resources
  • China expected to maintain isolationist policy through 2022
A student is tested at the Inner Mongolia Medical University in Hohhot, on March 2.
A student is tested at the Inner Mongolia Medical University in Hohhot, on March 2.Photographer: Peng Yuan/Xinhua/Getty Images

When Covid-19 flared in the northern Chinese border region of Ejin late last year, it revealed a key impediment to the country charting an exit from its zero-tolerance pandemic strategy. 

The healthcare system is so unprepared that any major shift away from Covid Zero -- which in China has meant frequent mass testing, swift quarantines, lockdowns and sealed international borders -- risks a public health crisis.