As part of a strategy of zero tolerance, or elimination of the coronavirus, at least 12 Chinese cities have announced that they will punish residents who refuse to receive the Covid-19 vaccine if new outbreaks of the disease occur in these territories. However, it was not detailed what the penalty will be.
Local authorities have only said they will “blame” those who, without medical contraindications, choose not to take the immunizing agent.
Last week, a similar measure was announced in towns in central Hubei province, where hesitant people between the ages of 12 and 17 or over 18 may be barred from working and entering hospitals and train stations.
With 54% of the population vaccinated, according to the most recent data, the Asian country is stepping up disease eradication measures and adopting more rigorous approaches. The main fear is the delta variant, which caused another outbreak in July, even after a successful trajectory in the fight against the virus.
This Monday (23), China did not register new cases of Covid transmitted locally for the first time since last month, according to the National Health Commission. The authorities predict that the percentage of vaccinated must reach 80% for the country to obtain collective immunity.
The announcement of possible sanctions was not well received by the Chinese. On the Twitter-like Weibo platform, some expressed their indignation at this policy, which would go against individual freedoms.
The determinations of local governments do not yet seem to have found an echo at the national level, the regime led by Xi Jinping has not announced a similar sanction for the whole country. A public policy professor at Tsinghua University criticized the measure in Beijing’s Global Times, linked to the Chinese Communist Party.
Xue Lan said local regulations do not mean the country has changed its vaccination policy from now voluntary to mandatory. “Pressure on local governments is no justification for forcing people to get vaccinated,” he said. “They have to find better ways, like providing hard data and good stories, to tell people why immunization is important.”
A series of other measures have also been put in place by various Chinese provinces in an attempt to eradicate the disease. Door-to-door visits and mobile vaccination vehicles are part of the strategy.
The public authorities have organized the transport of elderly people living in rural and mountainous areas to vaccination posts more than 10 kilometers away, as has already been done in Changfeng village in Sichuan province.
Some vaccination sites have also extended working hours to 10 p.m. to attract more citizens, and cities like Taishan have provided mobile vaccination vehicles for more remote and hard-to-reach places.
Although the pandemic and the resulting border closures did not hamper China’s GDP growth in 2020, taking advantage of economic activities is part of the reason for the zero tolerance policy.
The country reopened on Wednesday one of the world’s main cargo ports, Ningbo-Zhushan, partially paralyzed due to a Covid epidemic among employees. The terminal will operate normally from September 1, according to CCTV public television information. In 2020 alone, 1.2 billion tonnes of goods passed through it.
With the News York Times and AFP