One of China’s foremost virus experts died on Friday, Beijing’s top disease-control body said, after he helped shepherd the country through a hardline zero-Covid policy and its ultimately chaotic end.
Wu Zunyou was a leading expert at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, known as the China CDC, who regularly appeared in public to justify Beijing’s draconian lockdowns, mass testing and lengthy quarantines.
The measures initially stifled the spread of Covid-19 but creaked under the pressure of fast-spreading new variants and were axed late last year after mass protests that tested President Xi Jinping’s grip on power — unleashing a torrent of infections nationwide.
Wu died Friday in Beijing “after medical treatment for a disease proved unsuccessful”, the China CDC said in an obituary on its website. He was 60.
“Out of respect for the wishes of the deceased for a simple funeral ceremony, no (public) farewell will take place,” the obituary said.
Multiple state-linked media outlets, citing China CDC insiders, said the cause of Wu’s death was pancreatic cancer.
Born in 1963, Wu worked at a disease prevention station in his home province of Anhui before gaining a PhD in infectious diseases from UCLA in the United States.
He joined the China CDC in 2005 and won recognition for his work on AIDS prevention on his way to becoming the organisation’s go-to expert on infectious diseases.
He was a regular presence on state television from 2020 as China rolled out its zero-Covid machine, often wearing a simple grey suit and spectacles while speaking softly about the need to control the deadly virus.