China faces another COVID-19 spike, begins child vaccine rollout

Science & Health

For the fourth time this year, Chinese health authorities are taking swift measures to contain a small Delta-driven spike of COVID-19. With just over 100 days until the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, the capital announced especially strict requirements for visitors to enter.

covid qr code check china
At a COVID-19 testing site on October 23, 2021 in Yinchuan, Ningxia, a worker scans health app QR codes. Photo via Xinhua.

For the fourth time this year, China has reported a small, but rapidly growing, Delta-driven outbreak of COVID-19. And like each of the three previous times — in Guangzhou in June, in Nanjing and elsewhere in July and August, and in Fujian in September — authorities are taking strict measures to maintain the country’s “zero tolerance” virus policy.

The latest outbreak of over 160 cases within a week has affected Beijing, Inner Mongolia, Gansu, and at least eight other provincial-level regions, Caixin reports.

  • Inner Mongolia’s Ejin County, a small county bordering Mongolia that accounts for nearly one-third of the recent cases, has put its 35,700 residents into lockdown, per Bloomberg.
  • Beijing has postponed its annual marathon from its original October 31 date, per AFP.
  • With just over 100 days until the Winter Olympics in Beijing, the city is imposing strict travel requirements, according to Caixin:

…the city will restrict visitors from counties with at least one locally transmitted case in the past 14 days…those from unaffected counties in cities with at least one local infection should also not enter the capital unless necessary…

Beijing now requires those who want to enter from counties with COVID-19 cases to present a negative COVID-19 test from the preceding two days and a “green code” that proves they have not been in risk areas over the past few weeks…In addition, visitors should then expect a fortnight of health monitoring

Vaccines for children as young as 3

According to the Associated Press, China has become “one of the very few countries in the world” to begin a vaccine rollout for children under the age of 12.

Local city and provincial level governments in at least five Chinese provinces issued notices in recent days announcing that children ages 3 to 11 will be required to get their vaccinations.

About 76% of China’s population has already been fully vaccinated, according to health authorities, meaning that even without early childhood vaccinations, the country was on track to meet its goal of 80% vaccination coverage by the end of this year.

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No end in sight for zero tolerance policy

China is now the lone “zero tolerance” policy holdout among nations, after Delta-driven spikes led Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand to shift towards treating the virus as endemic.

​​When might China, too, ease up on its travel and quarantine requirements? Don’t hold your breath for at least the next 12 months, says Beijing-based BBC correspondent Stephen McDonnell:

Most observers here are not expecting officials in China to change the “back to zero” COVID-19 elimination strategy to a “living with COVID” policy until at least October 2022 (as a minimum) because that is when the 5-yearly Communist Party Congress will be held in Beijing.

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