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DONNIE JOHNSTON: China needs to understand that COVID is here to stay

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It is time to move on.

That’s what the people in China are saying.

The emergence of COVID is three years in the rearview mirror and in some places, like China, it still rules the landscape.

The Chinese government, seeking a zero-COVID environment, is reinstating tough social rules to fight the virus and the people are responding with protests in the streets. They have had enough.

The Chinese people have to make a living like everyone else. Even in a socialist country, they can’t feed their families if the factories and stores are closed and they can’t work. The Chinese want to go back to living normal lives.

The Chinese government, however, is striving for a COVID-free nation and that’s an unrealistic goal. As I stated in a column early in the pandemic, COVID will likely be around forever. It is here to stay.

The reason is simple. COVID is always changing, taking on new characteristics in an attempt to trick our immune systems. It is constantly seeking new ways to sneak in the back door because the virus is always in search of a host.

Trying to eradicate COVID is like trying to eradicate the flu. Both mutate in essentially the same manner. Every year there is at least one new strain of the flu floating around, which is why flu shots are not 100% effective.

Some winters there may be a dozen different strains of the flu out there and the flu shot may only guard you against two or three mutations. That’s the way viruses operate, always changing, always looking for an advantage.

COVID is no different. Already there are three or four variants of the initial virus infecting humans. And the “initial” virus may be only a mutation of some ancient strain that only recently found a way to move from animals to humans.

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China is where new strains of influenza emerge every year. If the Chinese have not been able to eradicate the flu, why do government officials believe they can wipe COVID off the map?

But even if they were to eradicate COVID in China, it would remain in other parts of the world. To keep the virus from returning, China would be forced to eliminate international travel and such action would cause its economy to collapse.

There is another reason why China should not go into lockdown. Remember “herd immunity?” Doctors preached that sermon as the pandemic took hold. Each time we get the virus, our bodies build up a certain amount of immunity to it and its future mutations.

That’s why the COVID vaccine is so effective. It doesn’t prevent you from getting the virus, but rather tricks your body into thinking that you have already had it. That way your immune system immediately recognizes COVID and starts fighting it. You may get sick, but not as sick.

COVID is not some childhood disease whose structure remains virtually the same. This virus is constantly changing so, unless there is some major medical breakthrough, it, like the flu, will be around forever, and the Chinese government should understand that.

Life has pretty much returned to normal in the United States. Yes, there continue to be COVID cases, but most are mild, some less severe than the common cold.

By now most Americans have either had COVID or taken the vaccine, and our bodies recognize the virus immediately and know how to fight it. There are still COVID deaths, but remember that more than 100,000 Americans die from the flu each year. Either virus can be fatal to a compromised immune system.

As I prophesied at the beginning of the pandemic, the COVID outbreak of 2019 is very similar to the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918. We had no immunity to that flu virus, and it was deadly. Over time, we built an immunity that had been passed down through the generations. Flu can still be rough, but it is not nearly so deadly as it was 100 years ago.

It is the same with COVID, and closing down stores and factories will not eradicate the virus. It will only delay “herd immunity” and damage the Chinese economy.

Since the Chinese economy is a vital part of the world economy, everyone will suffer if there are shutdowns.

Zero-COVID is an unrealistic dream and the Chinese government should understand that.

The Chinese people just want to get on with their lives.

Donnie Johnston:

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