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China’s Zero-Covid Rules ‘Buy Time’ for 49m Unvaccinated Elderly

Experts say the zero-Covid policy is needed to help boost vaccination rates and develop new treatments as about 49 million people over 60 are still unvaccinated


Residents in Shanghai wait in a queue for Covid-19 tests.
Some residents have expressed anger in social media over badly managed Covid-19 tests in their communities, citing issues such as confusion over test results or long waiting times. Photo: Reuters.

 

China’s strict zero-Covid rules are helping to buy time to boost vaccination rates among the elderly and create new treatments, making them essential to overcome the pandemic, senior health advisers wrote in recently published reports.

In correspondence published by peer-reviewed medical journal the Lancet last Friday, a team of city medical experts said Shanghai’s vital role in the national economy made lockdown unavoidable.

Shanghai, a city of 25 million people, has been locked down for nearly six weeks as it battles China’s biggest coronavirus outbreak, but the government have shrugged off criticism of its zero-Covid strategy, saying it remains the best option.

“As a leading economic centre and an open city in China, Shanghai has huge exchanges with other cities and regions in the country, so the spill-out of virus to other places… could have unimaginably severe consequences,” said the team, which includes Zhang Wenhong, an adviser to authorities in Shanghai on treatment for Covid-19.

 

ALSO SEE: Easing ‘Zero Covid’ Policy Could Cause 2m Deaths: China Study

 

 

49 Million Elderly Unvaccinated

Shanghai’s “dynamic” zero-Covid policies would “overcome weak links in the immunological barrier in populations across the country”, they said, pointing out that around 49 million people aged 60 and over were still unvaccinated.

New vaccines specifically targeting Omicron variants could be available soon, but China also needed to overcome vaccine hesitancy, especially among old and vulnerable people, they added.

Dynamic zero-Covid was still required to prevent a “run” on China’s health resources, according to a separate commentary published in the official journal of China’s Disease Prevention and Control Center and cowritten by senior government health advisor Liang Wannian.

“The dynamic Covid-zero strategies adopted by China have won a precious time window for the future,” it said, adding that the country must “seize the opportunity” to develop more drugs and vaccines.

 

  • Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard

 

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Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years and has a family in Bangkok.

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