Sat, 19 Jun 2021

Beijing's new Covid firewall shores up

ANI
12 May 2021, 03:27 GMT+10

Beijing [China], May 11 (ANI): China is shoring up its border to fence all provinces and cities to keep out the novel coronavirus after the nation largely banished the pandemic after it first emerged in the city of Wuhan, known as Beijing's new Covid firewall.

Frank Chen, writing in Asia Times, said that Beijing's authorities aren't taking any chances of a premature reopening as vaccinations lag and new Covid variants ravage neighbouring nations, particularly India.

The measures were hastily put in place before the summer of 2020 and now China's firewall has become nearly impregnable and is being strengthened as the West edges towards loosening its entry requirements as caseloads fall amid vaccination campaigns.

Meanwhile, the different approaches of China and the West are plain to see as Chinese ministries responsible for health and border protection have scrambled to send updated directives to border cities, airports and checkpoints that aim to beef up the country's defenses against so-called "backflows", wrote Chen.

In the West there is widespread optimism about travel bubbles, vaccine passports and mutual recognition of tests and inoculations for transatlantic travel and exchanges now that the focus of the global contagion has shifted back to Asia.

Dr Jennifer Huang Bouey, an epidemiologist and China policy studies specialist at the California-based think tank RAND Corporation, noted in her blog that huge risks could be lurking beneath the surface of China's weeks-long streak of zero local infections as any resurgence could be "explosive" with such a low level of vaccinations. The last time Chinese state media acknowledged local cases was in early April.

The expert noted that strict border controls meant few Chinese have naturally acquired immunity against the new viral mutants while at the same time the efficacy of China's vaccines against the new strains remains largely uncertain.

Currently, China only grants admission to foreigners with work visas and stay permits who must get clean slates in blood serum and polymerase chain reaction tests 24 hours before their departure. Upon arrival in China, they must undergo up to three weeks of quarantine as well as multiple subsequent tests before they are granted admission, reported Asia Times.

Also, China's slow vaccine take-up also means the masses are ill-prepared for any influx of the virus from border re-openings. The NHC's previous vaccination target of 40 per cent of the entire population, or 560 million Chinese, by the end of June now looks unachievable as daily jabs administered nationwide continue to hover around five million, half of the original goal.

The NHC said on Monday that more than 324 million doses had been given, though it didn't say how many have received the two shots needed to be fully vaccinated. Experts now warn that the slow pace of vaccination combined with people's hesitancy has left Beijing with no choice but to fortify the border firewall, reported Asia Times. (ANI)

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