They spray everything from streets to apartments to pets. Disinfection services in China are dumping tons of chemicals in hopes of eradicating the coronavirus, despite questionable anti-epidemic effect.
China, where COVID -19 was initially detected at the end of 2019, since the beginning of the year has been experiencing a boomerang comeback with the Omicron variant, which has caused it to confine entire cities, starting with the most populous, Shanghai.
In the arsenal of the zero COVID strategy, the disinfection of surfaces is part of a “full attack” against the virus, a municipal official explained there in early May.
On videos posted online, we can see employees in full suits spraying apartments whose inhabitants have been placed in quarantine centres.
Furniture, clothes, food: no personal effects escape the disinfectant droplets in the accommodations whose inhabitants had to leave their keys for this purpose before leaving.
Outside, the wave of disinfection s is tearing down sidewalks, building walls and even parks.
But in the opinion of experts interviewed by the AFP, these efforts are quite futile in the face of a virus that spreads mainly through the air when you cough or sneeze.
“It is not necessary to disinfect on a large scale since infection by touching contaminated surfaces is not an important route of transmission”, observes Yanzhong Huang, public health specialist at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
Not enough to discourage the “dabai”, or “tall whites”, the employees in protective suits in charge of the task.
Shanghai, confined since the beginning of April, had sterilized no less than 13,000 residential complexes as of May 2, or 140 million m2, said deputy mayor Liu Duo.
The zero COVID strategy followed by the communist regime, despite its cost to the economy and public freedoms, is increasingly contested in Shanghai by residents who complain that they cannot see the end of it.
Disinfection forced do nothing. A resident, who asked to remain anonymous, told AFP that his accommodation had been disinfected twice after returning from quarantine.
Each time, his family had to wait at the door for an hour.
Scholars question the usefulness of these measures .
While the virus can occasionally be transmitted via contaminated surfaces, “it does not survive long outside the human body,” notes Huang.
In contrast , “the disproportionate use of chemicals such as chlorine can have a negative impact on health and the environment,” he notes.
For infectious disease specialist Leong Hoe Nam, of Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital in Singapore, disinfection on the outside has absolutely “no interest”.
“It's like drawing paws to a snake,” he says, quoting a Chinese proverb.
Politics in a spray bottle
China prides itself on having so far limited deaths from COVID, in contrast to the carnage recorded in Western countries. The communist regime sees this as proof of the superiority of its authoritarian model.
Disinfecting interior and exterior surfaces could also have a political motive above all, speculates Dr. Leong.
“It's a very visible intervention that makes senior officials happy”, even if it hardly reduces the circulation of COVID, he believes.< /p>
A work that also shows everyone the determination of communist power to eradicate the virus, underlines Yanzhong Huang.
“It gives the image of a heroic battle against an invisible enemy