China pushes vaccines as retreat from “zero-COVID” turns messy

China pushes vaccines as retreat from “zero-COVID” turns messy

China pushes vaccines as retreat from “zero-COVID” turns messy

  • Beijing urges vaccinations for the elderly
  • WHO calls for vaccine guidance as virus spreads
  • The economic summit begins amid more disastrous data

BEIJING/SHANGHAI, Dec 15 (Reuters) – China raced on Thursday to vaccinate its most vulnerable people in anticipation of waves of COVID-19 infections, with some analysts expecting the death toll to rise after it eased strict controls that had kept the pandemic at bay levels for three years.

The push comes as even the World Health Organization has raised concerns that China’s population of 1.4 billion is not being adequately vaccinated, and the United States has offered help to deal with a surge in infections.

Beijing on Wednesday began dismantling its tough “zero-COVID” controls, scrapping testing requirements and easing quarantine rules that had caused anxiety in tens of millions and hit the world’s second-largest economy.

The move away from President Xi Jinping’s “zero-COVID” policy followed unprecedented widespread protests against it. But WHO emergencies director Mike Ryan said infections were exploding in China well before the government’s decision to phase out its strict regime.

“There’s a narrative right now that China has lifted restrictions and suddenly the disease is out of control,” Ryan said at a briefing in Geneva.

“The disease was spreading so intensively because I believe the control measures themselves weren’t stopping the disease.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Thursday that China has “institutional advantages” to fight the COVID-19.

“We will certainly be able to get through the peak of the epidemic without any problems,” he said at a regular press conference in response to White House national security spokesman John Kirby, saying that the United States was ready to help if China so had requested.

There are growing signs of chaos amid China’s turnaround, including long lines outside fever clinics, medicine rushes and panic buying across the country.

On Thursday evening, China’s state regulator urged state-backed big pharmaceutical companies to secure the supply of COVID-related medicines.

The companies include China Resources, China General Technology and Sinopharm, which own firms that make drugs that could ease symptoms of the coronavirus.

A video posted online Wednesday showed several people in warm winter clothes hooked up to IVs as they sat on stools on the street outside a clinic in central Hubei province. Reuters verified the location of the video.

The COVID scare in China has also led people in Hong Kong, Macao and some neighborhoods in Australia to seek out fever medicines and test kits for family and friends on the mainland.

For all its efforts to crack down on the virus since it exploded in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019, China may now pay a price to protect a population lacking “herd immunity” and low vaccination rates among the elderly. , analysts said.

“Authorities have allowed cases in Beijing and other cities to spread to the point where resuming restrictions, testing and tracing would be largely ineffective in bringing the outbreaks under control,” Eurasia analysts said on Thursday. Group in a note.

“More than 1 million people could die from COVID in the coming months.”

Other experts have estimated the potential toll at over 2 million. China has so far reported just 5,235 COVID-related deaths, extremely low by global standards.

Chinese stock markets and its currency fell on Thursday on concerns about the spread of the virus.

China reported 2,000 new symptomatic COVID-19 infections for Dec. 14 compared to 2,291 per day. The official figures, however, have become less reliable as testing has decreased. It also stopped reporting asymptomatic data on Wednesday.


China, which has said about 90% of its population is vaccinated against COVID, has now decided to roll out the second booster dose for high-risk groups and the elderly over the age of 60.

National Health Commission spokesman Mi Feng said on Wednesday that it was necessary to speed up the promotion of vaccinations, according to comments reported by state media.

The latest official data shows China administered 1.43 million COVID injections on Tuesday, well above November’s rates of around 100,000-200,000 doses per day. In total, it administered 3.45 billion injections.

Vaccinations in China have increased in recent days. The latest official figures show he administered 1.43 million injections on Tuesday, well above November’s rates of around 100,000 – 200,000 doses per day.

But a Shanghai nursing home said Wednesday some of its residents had not yet been vaccinated and, considering their underlying medical conditions, it banned visitors and non-essential deliveries as it hoarded medicines, test kits and protective gear. .

“We are puzzling over how to ensure the safety of your grandparents,” Yuepu Tianyi Nursing Home wrote in a letter posted on its official WeChat account page.

Beijing has been largely resistant to Western vaccines and treatments, having relied on locally made injections. Pfizer’s COVID-19 oral treatment (PFE.N) Paxlovid is one of the few foreigners it has approved.

The treatment, however, has only been available in hospitals for high-risk patients, but signs have emerged in recent days that it may soon be made more widely available.

Shares of China Meheco Group Co Ltd rose (600056.SS) after it announced a deal on Wednesday to import the US drugmaker’s treatment.


As the virus spreads, President Xi, his ruling Politburo and senior government officials have begun a two-day meeting to map out a recovery for China’s battered economy, according to sources familiar with the matter.

China’s economy lost more steam in November as industrial production growth slowed and retail sales extended the decline, both missing forecasts and posting the worst readings since May, Thursday data showed.

Economists estimate that China’s growth has slowed to about 3 percent this year, marking one of China’s worst performances in nearly half a century.

Reportage by Albee Zhang, Liz Lee and Bernard Orr in Beijing, Brenda Goh in Shanghai and Stella Qiu in Sydney; Additional reporting by Ella Cao in Beijing; Written by John Geddie and Greg Torode; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Arun Koyyur

Our standards: the Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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