China is loosening its “zero COVID” policy, but will not abandon it anytime soon

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Dozens of districts in Shanghai and Guangzhou, cities that saw an increase in the number of cases, have been released from restrictions. The country’s deputy prime minister also stated that the country is facing a “new situation”. Restrictions in major cities such as Guangzhou were lifted on Wednesday, hours after violent protests led to clashes between police and demonstrators. Beijing has also allowed mild cases of covid to be isolated at home. Until recently, entire buildings were locked down and entire communities isolated, sometimes as a result of just one positive test. Other major cities such as Shanghai and Chongqing have also seen some rules relaxed. The change in approach to tackling the virus came as one of China’s top pandemic officials, Vice Premier Sun Chunlan, said the virus’s ability to cause disease was waning. “The country faces a new situation and new tasks in epidemic prevention and control as the pathogenicity of the Omicron virus weakens, more people are vaccinated and we gain experience in containing the virus,” Reuters quoted Reuters as saying. This is in stark contrast to the authorities’ earlier message that the country must maintain a strict zero-case Covid-19 policy. China has also launched a campaign announced by the National Health Commission to vaccinate the elderly, which commentators say could be a signal that it may gradually reduce its strict antiviral controls. However, according to experts, the country is facing adversity and it may take up to a year before it makes a decision to end its “zero COVID” policy. The lack of readiness of the Chinese health service to increase hospitalizations is emphasized. Chinese vaccines are also less effective than Western ones, as even the Chinese themselves point out. The political element also plays a big role. The “zero COVID” policy is the brainchild of Chinese leader Xi Jinping. The vaccination campaign could take months, China also needs to build new hospitals and develop a long-term strategy to fight the virus, health experts and economists have warned. They say a zero-COVID strategy is likely to be in place until mid-2023, and possibly even until 2024. According to China’s Health Commission, nine out of ten Chinese people have been vaccinated, but only 66 percent have been vaccinated. over 80 years of age received one vaccine and 40% received a booster dose. It is said that 86 percent people over 60 are vaccinated. For comparison – according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – 93 percent. Americans age 65 and older received a full course of the vaccine, and another 2 percent. received at least one dose. Many people avoided vaccination due to safety concerns and because the number of cases in China was low – the risk of infection was low. The country has recorded its highest number of daily Covid cases since the start of the pandemic in recent days with more than 36,000 registered. However, these numbers are still small for a country of 1.4 billion people. According to official figures, just over 5,200 people have died in China since the start of the pandemic. This equates to three COVID-19 deaths for every million inhabitants, compared with 3,000 per million in the US and 2,400 per million in the UK – although direct comparisons between these countries are difficult. BBC, Associated Press, KR

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