Did The Measures Work
While China’s rigorous lockdowns may have initially struck observers as harsh and restrictive, the official data one year on appears to justify the measures, with a comparatively low death toll and caseload.
China has had just under 100,000 recorded infections, with only around 4,800 deaths linked to Covid-19.
Unlike many other countries, after the initial outbreak, the numbers appear to flatline with no second wave in sight.
Chinese data however does not include asymptomatic cases in this particular tally and some observers have raised doubts over its reliability.
Delta Variant Evading Chinese Vaccines
While China had largely reported few cases there are fears amongst experts there that current Chinese vaccines are less effective against the new strains of the coronavirus, but say they still offer some protection.
Only Chinese vaccines are currently being given in China, and authorities say more than 1.6 billion doses have been administered.
China had largely curbed COVID-19 at home after the initial outbreak that hit Wuhan before spreading around the world.
Since then, authorities have clamped down and controlled the disease whenever it pops up with quick lockdowns and mass testing to isolate infected people.
Current outbreaks across China, while still in the hundreds of cases in total, have spread much more widely than previous ones.
Many of the cases have been identified as the highly contagious Delta variant.
Screening Containment And Mitigation
Strategies in the control of an outbreak are screening, containment , and mitigation. Screening is done with a device such as a thermometer to detect the elevated body temperature associated with fevers caused by the infection. Containment is undertaken in the early stages of the outbreak and aims to trace and isolate those infected as well as introduce other measures to stop the disease from spreading. When it is no longer possible to contain the disease, efforts then move to the mitigation stage: measures are taken to slow the spread and mitigate its effects on the healthcare system and society. A combination of both containment and mitigation measures may be undertaken at the same time. Suppression requires more extreme measures so as to reverse the pandemic by reducing the basic reproduction number to less than 1.
More drastic actions aimed at containing the outbreak were taken in China once the severity of the outbreak became apparent, such as quarantining entire cities and imposing strict travel bans. Other countries also adopted a variety of measures aimed at limiting the spread of the virus. South Korea introduced mass screening and localised quarantines and issued alerts on the movements of infected individuals. Singapore provided financial support for those infected who quarantined themselves and imposed large fines for those who failed to do so. Taiwan increased face mask production and penalised the hoarding of medical supplies.
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Repeated Mass Testing Of Entire Cities
China took testing to an unprecedented level during this go-round. Local authorities checked their populations repeatedly, around a dozen times in one city alone, to ensure every last infection was caught. In all, more than 100 million tests were administered. In the city of Yangzhou, some people were infected while waiting in line to get swabbed.
Quarantines also played a larger role. Beijing at one point was sealed to any other place with even a single case. It also cut off trains and flights from hot spots around the country, even though the city ultimately posted fewer than 10 infections in the delta flareup.
Other regions introduced sweeping curbs, from barring entry for people from high risk areas to asking them to cut short vacations. Most had to remain isolated at home a rule that was strictly enforced before returning to work and school. More than 200 neighborhoods were labeled high- or medium-risk, triggering sweeping curbs that disrupted lives and businesses.
How Is Life In Wuhan Now
One year on, life appears to be almost back to normal in the city. Last week the BBC drove to the city and spoke to people about what their lives are like now.
However, censorship has made it difficult to get a full sense of how Wuhan, and other parts of the country, coped with the strict measures.
What is certain is that this past year has taken a psychological toll, according to recent interviews with Wuhan residents, some of whom were worried about talking to international media.
“The pandemic has certainly left something behind, even if it is not visible on the surface,” one resident, Han Meimei, told the BBC.
“But there is certainly trauma deep inside many people in this city, including many details of the past year that I don’t think I wanted to look at clearly until now.”
Still, there is a feeling among some Chinese – helped by state propaganda – that China has handled the pandemic better than most, as some Beijing residents told the BBC recently.
And for others, there is now a greater sense of unity and connection.
A Wuhan student, who only wanted to be known as Li Xi, said: “Before the pandemic, everyone seemed a bit grumpy, often rushed… but after the pandemic, they have become more grateful for life and much more warm-hearted.”
“This kind of disaster has actually brought more people together,” said Han. “If people are there, the city is still there.”
China Faces Difficulties In Expanding Covid
Residents wearing face masks line up to receive the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine at the Central Business District in Beijing on Jun 2, 2021.
BEIJING: China is facing growing difficulties in expanding its mass COVID-19 vaccination drive, but it will continue to inoculate more people and step up the programme of booster shots, a health official said on Friday .
Zheng Zhongwei, an official at the National Health Commission, did not specify the obstacles but stressed that those who have not been vaccinated could not rely on being protected by those who have had the shots amid concerns over the highly transmissible Delta variant.
“Recently, as came to the later stage, it has become increasingly difficult,” Zheng said at a health forum.
He said China has given full doses to about 900 million people, or more than 60 per cent of its 1.4 billion population, but cited some experts saying China may need a vaccination rate higher than 80 per cent.
China administered about 13 million doses per day on average in July and August, slower than June’s daily average of 19 million.
Currently people are recommended to take booster doses of the same type of technology as their first vaccinations, but more options might be available once studies on using different shots as boosters yield results, Zheng said.
China has supplied 1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines to the rest of the world, Zheng said.
So Are The Vaccines Failing
Vaccines are not the only factor to explain what’s going on in these countries.
One reason could be that the efficacy of vaccines might be waning or they are not as effective against new variants.
Pfizer has said recently that it will seek authorisation for a booster shot in the United States to improve immunity.
In Indonesia, the main doctors’ association said comorbidities may have played some part in the death of healthcare workers.
The country also has extremely low vaccination rates – with just over 5% of its population receiving both doses.
In Chile, some experts have blamed the spike in cases on people mingling too soon after getting the first dose of the vaccine.
Prof Ben Cowling, head of epidemiology and biostatics at University of Hong Kong, said despite having a “modest efficacy” against symptomatic Covid, both Sinovac and Sinopharm give “very high level of protection” against severe disease.
“That means that these inactivated vaccines would have already saved a lot of lives,” he told the BBC.
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Evacuation Of Foreign Citizens
Owing to the effective lockdown of Wuhan and Hubei, several countries evacuated their citizens and diplomatic staff from the area, primarily through chartered flights of the home nation, with Chinese authorities providing clearance. Canada, the United States, Japan, India, Sri Lanka, Australia, France, Argentina, Germany, and Thailand were among the first to plan the evacuation of their citizens. Brazil and New Zealand also evacuated their own nationals and some other people. On 14 March 2020, South Africa repatriated 112 South Africans who tested negative for the virus from Wuhan, while four who showed symptoms were left behind to mitigate risk. Pakistan said it would not evacuate citizens from China.
On 15 February 2020, the US announced it would evacuate Americans aboard the cruise ship Diamond Princess, and on 21 February, Canada evacuated 129 Canadian passengers from the ship. In early March, the Indian government began evacuating its citizens from Iran. On 20 March, the United States began to partially withdraw its troops from Iraq due to the pandemic.
Cnbc Health & Science
Read CNBC’s latest global coverage of the Covid pandemic:
In May, Biden asked the intelligence community to “redouble their efforts” within 90 days in hopes of finding a “definitive conclusion” about the virus origins.
The nation’s intelligence agencies assess that Covid was first exposed to humans in November 2019 near the city of Wuhan in China’s Hubei province. The first known cluster of cases was reported in December.
After the first case was reported in the U.S. in January 2020, the virus has since infected more than 38 million Americans and killed more than 630,000, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Globally, more than 215 million people have been infected with the virus and about 4.5 million have died, according to JHU data.
Earlier this week, Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” that it was still unclear whether the virus leaked out of a Wuhan lab.
“The vast evidence from other perspectives says no, this was a naturally occurring virus,” Collins said. “Not to say that it could not have been under study secretly at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and got out of there, we don’t know about that. But the virus itself does not have the earmarks of having been created intentionally by human work.”
CNBC’s Rich Mendez contributed to this report from New York.
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How Do Variants Affect Vaccines
The Sinovac and Sinopharm studies, however, tested the efficacy of vaccines against the virus that was first found in the Chinese city of Wuhan. No new data has been published on how they fare against variants.
Based on studies trying to model immune protection from the virus, Prof Cowling estimates the protection offered by inactivated virus vaccines against the Delta variant could be as much as 20% lower compared to the original strain.
His calculations suggest an even larger reduction against the Beta variant first found in South Africa, which is the one that most differs from the original virus.
Professor Jin Dong-yan, a virologist also from the University of Hong Kong, told the BBC it’s “expected” that the efficacy of the Chinese vaccines will go down against the variants, including Delta.
But he said “Sinovac and Sinopharm are good vaccines” and people who do not have access to vaccines with higher efficacy should still receive their injections.
However, he said, they should continue to follow social distancing rules and other measures to curb infections.
Reporting by Pablo Uchoa and Yvette Tan
China Seals City As Its Worst Virus Outbreak In A Year Grows
BEIJING Chinas worst coronavirus outbreak since the start of the pandemic a year and a half ago escalated Wednesday with dozens more cases around the country, the sealing-off of one city and the punishment of its local leaders.
Since that initial outbreak was tamed last year, Chinas people had lived virtually free of the virus, with extremely strict border controls and local distancing and quarantine measures stamping out scattered, small flareups when they occurred.
Now, the country is on high alert as an outbreak of cases connected to the international airport in the eastern city of Nanjing touched at least 17 provinces. China reported 71 new cases of COVID-19 from local transmission Wednesday, more than half of them in coastal Jiangsu province, of which Nanjing is the capital.
Meanwhile, another COVID-19 hotspot was emerging in the city of Zhangjiajie, near a scenic area in Hunan province famous for sandstone cliffs, caves, forests and waterfalls that inspired the on-screen landscape in the Avatar films.
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So Why Is China The Only Nation Doing Well After Covid Who Knows
- Tony Parsons
THE Chinese Year of the Ox has started nicely for President Xi Jinping.
While the rest of the world continues to reel from the worst health emergency for 100 years, China is the only major global economy to have actually GROWN in 2020.
Even better, a team of World Health Organisation officials on a fib-finding mission to China sorry, FACT-finding mission have dismissed the two main theories of where Covid-19 actually came from. The WHO concluded that coronavirus did NOT escape from one of Chinas secret military laboratories and did NOT come from one of its filthy, nature-defiling wet markets.
And the fact that Wuhans top-secret Institute of Virology the only lab in China allowed to experiment with the most lethal viruses is located just miles from a sprawling wet market?
Two-point-three-million dead, economies in ruin and our freedoms rolled up and stuffed into storage, perhaps for ever. But China is blameless.
Except that scientific opinion across the globe begs to differ with the dodgy conclusions of the WHO, the United Nations body allegedly protecting the health and safety of mankind.
That the WHO agreed to a joint investigation with the Chinese Communist Party tells you all you need to know, says Sam Armstrong, from the Henry Jackson Society think tank.
The theory in Beijing now helpfully pushed by their supine spin doctors in the WHO is that Covid-19 probably came into China from IMPORTED fish.
And there is another mystery.
China Reports Zero Local Symptomatic Covid Cases For First Time Since July
Tough measures were deployed after the recent Delta variant outbreak
Chinas health authority has reported no new locally transmitted symptomatic Covid cases for the first time since the Delta variant outbreak began in July.
While it is unclear whether the figure will remain at zero in the weeks to come, experts said it was yet another sign that Beijings zero tolerance approach was unlikely to be changed.
More than 1,200 people have been confirmed infected in an outbreak that officials said was mainly driven by the highly transmissible Delta variant, which was brought in from abroad and caused a cluster in late July in the eastern city of Nanjing.
The latest round of outbreak prompted nationwide alarm, with politicians and medical professionals appearing on local and national media urging people to be on high alert.
Tough measures were quickly deployed. They included localised lockdowns, strict quarantine and mass testing. Early this month, for example, authorities ordered all 11 million residents of Wuhan where Covid-19 was first reported in late 2019 to be tested for the virus, after new cases emerged in the city for the first time in more than a year.
On Saturday, the authorities in Shanghai, a vital transportation hub, quarantined hundreds of people in an attempt to halt a new Covid-19 outbreak in the city, after infections were detected in cargo workers at the airport.
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When Infections Surface China Opts For Large
China has excelled at identifying and isolating new infections while shutting down large swathes of the country if needed to block new clusters from growing.
These complete lockdowns are effective at reducing total infections and giving hospitals time to prepare, but they require heavy sacrifices from those stuck inside.
Socioeconomically vulnerable populations are hit the hardest. Two- or three-week hotel quarantines for close contacts or those traveling from a region with active COVID cases must be paid out of pocket, a heavy expense for most citizens. And many of China’s migrant workers who power the country’s service and e-commerce industries have been unable to see their families in other cities because they fear being locked down away from their jobs if they were to return for a visit and then end up in lockdown.
Moreover, lockdowns only work if they are absolutely enforced for long periods of time, says Tamer Oraby, a statistician at the University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley, who studies how outbreaks spread: “With short term lockdowns, the disease is probably going to keep spreading between individuals of a household for a while. If we suddenly remove the lockdown, those people are going to go outside again and start spreading the disease once more.”
Such rigid methods can be problematic to maintain as new clusters emerge across China each week.
Protests Against Governmental Measures
In several countries, protests have risen against governmental restrictive responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as lockdowns. A February 2021 study found that large protest rallies against COVID-19 measures are likely to directly increase the spread of viruses, including COVID-19.
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