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Opinion
The Editors

China Should Prepare to Live With Covid-19

The country’s efforts to eliminate the virus look increasingly unsustainable. Leaders should start laying the groundwork now for an eventual change in course. 

Beijing is on high alert ahead of the Olympics. 

Beijing is on high alert ahead of the Olympics. 

Photographer: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

More than two years into the Covid-19 pandemic, China is the last major nation pursuing a zero-tolerance strategy, seeking to extinguish outbreaks as soon as individual cases emerge. That policy looks increasingly unsustainable. Chinese leaders should prepare now for a change in course.

The emergence of the highly transmissible omicron variant is already testing the government’s approach. Local officials have had to adopt strict measures to control emerging infections — locking down entire cities, limiting travel, and mass-testing millions of people. Some 20 million Chinese were under some form of lockdown this month. Tianjin, one of the world’s largest ports, recently forced its entire population to undergo tests, disrupting business and leading some foreign-owned factories to suspend operations.