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Zero COVID and health inequities: lessons from Singapore
  1. G Owen Schaefer
  1. Centre for Biomedical Ethics, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore, Singapore
  1. Correspondence to Dr G Owen Schaefer, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, Singapore, Singapore; owen_schaefer{at}

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COVID-19 has stolen millions of lives and devastated livelihoods around the world and led to the exacerbation of existing inequities within and between countries. This part of a tragic pattern in catastrophes, where the most vulnerable populations are typically the ones to bear the greatest burdens. Jecker and Au1 offer a keen observation of how one particular COVID-19 response—Zero COVID—appears particularly problematic from a health equity perspective. Under Zero COVID, countries enact stringent lockdowns and movement restrictions in order to keep cases as low as possible. Yet such restrictive policies hurt disadvantaged populations (such as impoverished individuals or migrant workers) the most, by severely curtailing their ability to earn a living and forcing them to remain in cramped living spaces for potentially extended periods of time.

However, the link between Zero COVID and health inequity is more complex than it might at first appear. This is because Zero COVID is itself compatible with meaningful efforts to mitigate inequities, including those caused by Zero COVID policies themselves. Conversely, certain inequities seemingly characterised by Zero COVID may persist even when Zero COVID is abandoned, indicating their ultimate root and (purported) …

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  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.