- Beijing urges vaccinations for the elderly
- WHO calls for vaccine campaign as virus spreads
- Economic summit begins amid more dire data
BEIJING/SHANGHAI, Dec 15 (Reuters) – China rushed on Thursday to vaccinate its most vulnerable people in anticipation of waves of COVID-19 infections, and some analysts expected the death toll to soar after it eased strict controls that had kept the pandemic at bay for three years.
The push comes as the World Health Organization also raised concerns that China’s 1.4 billion people were not adequately vaccinated and that the United States offering help to deal with a sudden increase in infections.
Beijing began last Wednesday to roll back its strict ‘zero-COVID’ controls, scrapping testing requirements and easing quarantine rules that had caused tens of millions anxiety and battered the world’s second-biggest economy.
The move away from President Xi Jinping’s signature “COVID zero” policy followed by unprecedented widespread protests against him. But WHO emergencies director Mike Ryan said infections were exploding in China long before the government’s decision to phase out its strict regimen.
“There is a narrative at the time that China lifted the restrictions and all of a sudden the disease is out of control,” Ryan told a briefing in Geneva.
“The disease was spreading intensely because I think the control measures themselves were not stopping the disease.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Thursday that China has “institutional advantages” to fight covid.
“We will certainly be able to get past the peak of the epidemic without a problem,” he told a regular news briefing in response to White House national security spokesman John Kirby, who said the United States was ready to help if China requested it.
There are increasing signs of chaos during China’s turnaround, including long lines outside fever clinics, drug runs and nationwide panic buying.
On Thursday night, China’s state asset regulator urged large state-backed drugmakers to guarantee supplies of COVID-related medicines.
The companies include China Resources, China General Technology and Sinopharm, which own businesses that make drugs that could alleviate coronavirus symptoms.
A video posted online Wednesday showed several people in thick winter clothing hooked up to intravenous drips while sitting on stools on the street outside a clinic in the central province of Hubei. Reuters verified the location of the video.
the covid scare in China also led people in Hong Kong, Macao and in some neighborhoods in Australia to search for fever medicine and test kits for family and friends on the mainland.
Despite all its efforts to quell the virus since it broke out in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019, China may now pay a price for protecting a population that lacks “herd immunity” and has low vaccination rates among 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 controlling outbreaks,” Eurasia Group analysts said in a note on Thursday. .
“More than 1 million people could die from COVID in the next few months.”
Other experts have put the potential toll on more than 2 million. China has reported just 5,235 COVID-related deaths so far, extremely low by global standards.
China’s 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 as of December 2. 14 vs. 2,291 per day. However, official figures have become less reliable as testing wanes. It also stopped reporting asymptomatic figures on Wednesday.
CONCERN FOR THE ELDERLY
China, which has said that around 90% of its population is vaccinated against COVID, has now decided to launch the second booster vaccine for high-risk groups and people over 60 years of age.
National Health Commission spokesman Mi Feng said on Wednesday that promotion of vaccines needed to be accelerated, according to comments reported by state media.
The latest official data shows that China administered 1.43 million COVID injections on Tuesday, well above November rates of around 100,000-200,000 doses a day. In total, he has administered 3.45 billion injections.
But a Shanghai nursing home said on Wednesday that several of its residents have not yet been vaccinated and, considering their underlying medical condition, banned non-essential visits and deliveries while stockpiling medicine, test kits and protective gear.
“We are racking our brains on how to ensure the safety of your grandparents,” the Yuepu Tianyi Nursing Home wrote in a letter posted on its official WeChat account page.
Beijing has largely resisted Western vaccines and treatments, relying on locally made injections. by pfizer (PFE.N) oral treatment COVID-19 Paxlovid is one of the few foreigners who has approved.
However, the treatment has only been available in hospitals for high-risk patients, but signs have emerged in recent days that it may soon become more widely available.
China Meheco Group Co Ltd shares rose (600056.SS) after it announced a deal to import the treatment from the US drugmaker on Wednesday.
As the virus spreads, President Xi, his ruling Politburo and senior government officials kicked off a two-day meeting to chart a recovery for China’s battered economyaccording to sources with knowledge of the matter.
China’s economy lost further steam in November as factory output growth slowed and retail sales extended their declines, both missing forecasts and posting their worst readings since May, data showed on Thursday.
Economists estimate China’s growth has slowed to around 3% this year, marking one of China’s worst performances in nearly half a century.
Reporting 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; Edited by Simon Cameron-Moore and Arun Koyyur
Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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