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The Chief Epidemiologist of China, who played a key role in the fight against COVID, has passed away at the age of 60.
Science & Health

The Chief Epidemiologist of China, who played a key role in the fight against COVID, has passed away at the age of 60.

On Friday, Wu Zunyou, a 60-year-old epidemiologist who played a key role in implementing strict zero-COVID protocols in China, passed away. These measures included restricting entry to cities and mandating home confinement for millions of individuals.

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported Wu’s death without stating the cause, but noted that rescue efforts were unsuccessful.

Wu’s well-being had been in a fragile state. Last year, he was absent from the public spotlight for several months as he fought against cancer.

Wu, who obtained his master’s and PhD from the University of California, Los Angeles, spent a significant portion of his early professional life focusing on HIV/AIDS prevention efforts in China.

According to his biography on the UCLA website, Wu played a key role in creating China’s primary strategy for addressing the HIV crisis among intravenous drug users. In honor of his contributions, he received the 2005 International Rolleston Award. He was further recognized for his overall efforts with a UNAIDS Gold Medal in 2008.

However, while China was fighting the COVID-19 virus, Wu faced criticism for publicly expressing support for the country’s strict measures to control the virus, despite the growing realization of flaws in the strategy.

During the peak of Shanghai’s lockdown in April 2022, he stated that implementing a dynamic zero-COVID approach is the most suitable solution for China’s current situation in controlling the spread of COVID.

In the initial stages of the pandemic, the approach allowed China to buy some time. However, by 2022, as the virus began to spread more easily, it became apparent that this strategy was under pressure.

Shanghai, a large city, was caught off guard by a lockdown, causing its inhabitants to rush for essential items and supplies. Additionally, access to urgent medical care was difficult as people were not allowed to leave their homes or enter hospitals. The implementation of mass field hospitals, where those who tested positive were required to go by public health officials, was also met with anger from many individuals.

Privately, Wu had differences of opinion regarding the extreme measures of the zero-COVID approach but was unable to challenge it.

In the autumn of 2022, as the concept of zero-COVID became unfeasible, he authored an internal document advising the government to refrain from extreme actions. However, in public press briefings over the last few years, he expressed the official stance.

Wu’s appearance showed signs of aging during his battle against the virus. In 2020, he was seen with mostly dark hair, but by 2022, his hair had turned completely gray.

Just hours after former Premier Li Keqiang’s death was announced, news of Wu’s passing was also revealed. Li, who was the second highest leader in the country during the pandemic, has passed away.