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Has China’s zero-COVID strategy gone too far?

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China is coming under pressure to abandon its severe COVID-zero policy, but the nation’s low vaccination rate means the solution isn’t straightforward

China’s largest city Shanghai has been suffering under one of the most brutal lockdowns the world has seen.

Strict measures in the city have extended for over a month and are making global headlines.

Widespread reports of people trapped in their homes without food and medical supplies have emerged from the city.

At the same time the nations economy is struggling to cope with severe COVID-19 measures, as international exports dropped to their lowest level in two years.

Fenced up houses in Shanghai

In recent weeks the calls to abandon China’s COVID-zero policy have reached thunderous levels.

So why is the nation persisting with its policy?

South China Correspondent Primrose Riordan tells Ticker NEWS the crux of the issue lies with China’s low vaccination rate.

“The disaster that could … happen as a result of veering away from the zero COVID policy at the moment, could be widespread deaths among the elderly population,” she says.

According to Riordan, there are very low vaccination rates among China’s elderly population, and the nation is struggling with “some serious vaccine hesitancy”.

In some cases people with underlying health conditions have been advised by doctors to not get vaccinated.

The resulting low vaccination rate coupled with the fact most of the population has had limited exposure to the virus raises the possibility that lifting the COVID-19 protocols could lead to a significantly high number of deaths, as seen in Hong Kong in March this year.

Because of this, Riordan says you can see why the Chinese government is maintaining its stance.

“The mystery at the moment is, of course, why they’re not upping the vaccination rate among the elderly, which would allow for a smooth route out of zero COVID,” she says.

Route out of lockdown

A number of nations around the world have attempted to implement similar zero-COVID strategies at different points in time.

Australia for example, implemented a number of strict lockdowns, but abandoned the strategy as vaccine rates increased above 80 percent and containment became more difficult as more contagious variants swept across the globe.

Riordan says China’s initial pursuit of COVID-zero was understandable.

“At least while there was such deaths in the rest of the world, China was spared that,” she says.

For her, China’s problem is to find a way to combat supply issues and find a way to move away from the strict COVID-zero policy.

“They have made a lot of measures to try and up those vaccination rates. But it has been, like fairly slow,” she says.

South China Correspondent for the Financial Times, Primrose Riordan, says it’s a mystery why this hasn’t been pushed more harshly.

“If you’re making staying at home compulsory, you’re wondering why vaccination wasn’t compulsory,”

she says.

Elsewhere in China, the fallout from the recent Hong Kong elections continues

John Lee was elected executive chairman on May 8, amid widespread speculation over the legitimacy of the selection process.

Riordan says the process was not necessarily an election in the western sense and that this is the way that they’re going to choose their leaders going into the future, because Beijing wants a lot more control of the process.

“Even in the past, they used to have at least… some sort of contender, or some sort of an other option that some of the Hong Kong elites might have voted for,” she says.

“This time obviously, the government wanted as much control of the process as possible.”

Riordan says the main issue moving forward is whether Lee will prioritise Hong Kong as a financial center.

Recently Hong Kong has had to follow Beijing’s COVID-zero policy, effectively separating the city from international businesses.

“When you’re choosing a security hardliner, rather than… somebody with a more financial background, it’s yet to be seen what policies he’s going to bring forward in terms of preserving that status of Hong Kong.”

she says

“I guess the policies going forward for international business would be the next thing to watch in Hong Kong,” she says.

Bryan Hoadley contributed to this article

World

Authorities find drug-smuggler’s tunnel under the U.S. and Mexico border

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Anti-drug agents have found a smugglers’ tunnel including a rail track, electricity and ventilation system

A drug-smuggler’s tunnel has been unearthed under the U.S. and Mexican border.

It led from the Mexican city of Tijuana to a warehouse located 300 feet from the San Diego border.

Six people have been arrested for their alleged involvement in the scheme.

They are accused of conspiring to distribute cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, among other crimes.

“There is no more light at the end of this narco-tunnel,” says the U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman.

Authorities collect information about the people behind the tunnel.

The tunnel is believed to be over 1,750 feet long, and was fitted out reinforced walls.

Close to 100 tunnels have been found in the same area, but this was one of the largest.

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Ukraine Crisis

Finland and Sweden submit applications to join NATO

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Finland and Sweden have officially submitted their applications to join NATO

Finland and Sweden have handed in applications to join NATO.

It ends decades of political neutrality for both nations, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Chief of NATO says the applications are quote an “historic step”.

If their bid is successful, it will bring the alliance’s membership to 32.

While Russia strongly opposes the move, there are also members within NATO’s own ranks voicing their concerns.

Dubbed the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the NATO alliance was founded in 1949

It follows one rule: an attack on one, is an attack on all.

It sought to counter Russian expansion in Europe after World War Two.

But following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, many of its former Eastern European allies joined the alliance, something that has raised concerns in Moscow.

Finland and Sweden need the support of all member states to join. If they’re successful, it will take the alliance to 32 members.

NATO members must spend 2 per cent of their GDP on defence. Finland already meets this target and Sweden says it will do so “as soon as possible”.

The two countries will also bring a range of military might.

Finland has over 19-thousand active troops, and Sweden has over 14-and-a-half thousand.

There are 220 tanks, and over 200 combat aircraft.

Russia believes NATO has been verging on its door stop and is warning both nations against joining.

Turkey’s President is also voicing concerns, saying the two Scandinavian nations should not send delegations to convince him of their bids.

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Tech

U.S. warns against hiring North Korean tech workers

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The U.S. is warning North Korean workers are trying to find IT jobs by hiding their identities

The U.S. believes workers are seeking to steal money for their home country.

Many of them are allegedly pretending to be from other parts of Asia, according to three U.S. agencies.

The State Department says thousands of highly skilled IT workers are sent around the world to generate revenue to help with North Korea’s weapons production.

“The DPRK [North Korea] dispatches thousands of highly skilled IT workers around the world to generate revenue that contributes to its weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programmes, in violation of US and UN sanctions.”

U.S. State Department

If North Korea is employing workers to fund its missiles program, the move would be in violation of U.N. international sanctions.

“The United States is committed to disrupting illicit DPRK revenue-generating activities, which may facilitate criminal activity, provide direct support to the DPRK’s unlawful weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs, and threaten international peace and security,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement.

The country has conducted several missile tests in recent months, including a banned intercontinental ballistic missile.

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