The country has some of the world’s strictest entry requirements, with most inbound travelers being required to spend at least 14 days in a government quarantine facility, followed by seven days of home isolation. On Tuesday, the National Health Commission said incoming visitors will only have to spend seven days in a quarantine facility and three days at home.
No start date has been set for the new move, nor is it considered a sign of the impending end of China’s strict ‘zero Covid’ policy, which has seen entire communities and cities shut down due to only a handful of coronavirus cases.
On Tuesday, during his visit to Wuhan, Chinese President Xi Jinping reaffirmed the country’s “zero-covid policy” and said he would rather “sacrifice a little economic growth temporarily” than “harm people’s health,” it reported. state news agency Xinhua.
Today, the world’s most populous nation remains an outlier due to its persistent zero-tolerance approach, which has seen cities across China – including Beijing and Shanghai – recently shut down in whole or in part. The strategy has devastated economic activity and harmed the labor market. In May, the unemployment rate for people aged 16-24 reached a record high of 18.4%.
After cornering themselves with their previous rhetoric, China’s leaders feel unable to turn things around — even in the face of more transmissible coronavirus strains like Omicron — without acute loss of face. When World Health Organization (WHO) head Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called the strategy “unsustainable” in May, his comments were removed from the internet by Chinese censors.
Beijing Daily removed the quote, calling it an “editing error”, and the reference to it was removed from the internet as Chinese censors tried to allay a massive online backlash. DailyExpertNews watched the entire speech, and while the published Beijing Daily quote was misleading, Beijing party chief Cai Qi discussed at length the possibility of maintaining a zero-covid policy in the capital for the next five years.
The pandemic controls that remain in place include routine PCR testing, strict entry rules, regular health checks in residential areas and public places, as well as rigorous monitoring and testing for people entering and leaving Beijing, state media quoted Cai as saying.
Questions are being raised about how long Beijing can keep policy on track as citizens lose patience. As Shanghai ended its brutal two-month lockdown in early June, many communities are reintroducing lockdown measures. A viral video — which has since been removed from Chinese social media — captured a recent protest at a compound in Shanghai.
It shows residents lining the fence, demanding release and begging authorities to stop sending Covid-negative residents to quarantine facilities just because they live in a building near a Covid-positive case. One of them – who says through a loudspeaker: “We are illegally detained” – is promptly removed by the authorities. Another raises his middle finger at Covid law enforcement officers in hazmat suits.
Despite the public’s palpable anger, NHC spokesman Mi Feng said on Tuesday the new quarantine requirements were not intended to relax Covid controls, but rather to promote “more scientific and targeted” measures.
YOU EARLY. WE ANSWER.
Q: How effective are the updated Covid-19 boosters against the Omicron variant?
Pfizer Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla said in a press release that they believe they have “two very strong Omicron-modified candidates that elicit a significantly higher immune response to Omicron than we’ve seen to date.”
The study looked at two different dose levels — 30 micrograms and 60 micrograms — in more than 1,000 adults ages 56 and older. The current dosage for this age group is 30 micrograms for both the primary and booster injections. A fourth booster, across both dose levels, showed a significantly higher immune response.
READ OF THE WEEK
FDA advisors vote to include Omicron specific component for booster as BA.4 and BA.5 become the dominant cause of infections in the US
The independent Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee of the US Food and Drug Administration voted Tuesday to support the recommendation to include an Omicron-specific component for a Covid-19 booster vaccine.
In the past week alone, BA.4 and BA.5 accounted for about 52.3% of Covid-19 cases in the United States – a 37.4% increase from the week before. These subvariants are genetically different from other versions of the virus. Several studies have shown that BA.4 and BA.5 are able to evade much of the immune protection of vaccines and previous infections, likely allowing them to spread quickly.
The severity of the virus varies from country to country. In South Africa, the BA.4/BA.5 wave led to an increase in Covid-19 cases, but did not increase the risk of hospitalization. In Europe, the number of cases and hospitalizations are increasing as BA.4 and BA.5 become the dominant strain. It remains to be seen what the impact will be in the US.
Long Covid can affect children, including infants
The study, published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, found that children who had previously tested positive were more likely to experience at least one symptom for two months or more compared to children who had never tested positive. Symptoms of long-term Covid include headaches, mood swings, stomach problems and fatigue. The most common symptoms varied by age.
“Although the likelihood of children experiencing Covid for a long time is low, especially when compared to the control group, it should be seriously recognized and treated,” Selina Kikkenborg Berg, study co-author and professor of cardiology at Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, Denmark, said, adding that their findings were in line with previous studies of long-term Covid.
Covid still keeps hospitals back up
Most nursing homes are limiting the number of new patients due to staff shortages, which means that the average hospital stay is longer than before the pandemic.
In Washington, about 10% of patients currently in hospital beds no longer require hospital care, said Cassie Sauer, chief executive officer of the Washington State Hospital Association. Most are waiting for a place in a nursing or mental health institution.
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that hundreds of thousands of workers have left the nursing home sector since the start of the pandemic. More than 60% of nursing homes are limiting new admissions due to staffing shortages, according to a survey conducted by the American Health Care Association in May, with most saying it has gotten worse since January.
Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association, said the pandemic has “made a really difficult task even harder.”
People suffering from low vision or blindness can now sign up for free Covid-19 home testing kits in the US.
dr. Ashish Jha, White House Covid-19 Response Coordinator, said, “one issue consistently raised has been that blind or partially sighted individuals are often unable to perform rapid self-tests on their own.”
On Thursday, the Biden administration rolled out tests designed to be more accessible to the visually impaired, and they can be ordered for free from Covidtests.gov — which ships the tests through the US Postal Service.