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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

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Pink-coloured pigeon rescued in New York

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Pigeons come in a whole range of colours, but it seems pink isn’t one of them

That’s exactly what happened in New York though, where a bright-coloured bird was rescued.

Wildlife groups believe the pigeon was dyed as part of a gender reveal ceremony.

The feathery friend was suffering from malnutrition when it was found in Madison Square Park.

In a statement, the Wild Bird Fund says they should never be dyed because of risks like starvation and even death.

It went on to say the “poor bird has it bad enough unable to find food in the wild, fly well or escape predators.”

“But being a bright, unusual colour makes him even more of a target.”

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Iranian couple jailed for online dancing video

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An Iranian couple have been given jail sentences totalling 10 years after posting a video online.

 
The two individuals, both in their 20s, were charged for supposedly promoting corruption, prostitution and propaganda.

Authorities have been cracking down on public disobedience.

It follows the death of a woman who was detained by the country’s infamous morality police.

Mahsa Amini died in police custody in September last year, arrested for violating the rule requiring women to cover their hair with a hijab, or headscarf.

Anti-government protests swept across the country after the incident.

The two individuals in the dancing video were reportedly detained after posting the clip to their social media accounts – which have a combined following of more than two million people.

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Donald Trump claims deposition as “biggest witch hunt”

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Donald Trump has described the investigation into his company as the “biggest witch hunt” in the history of the United States during a formal deposition.

In September 2022, the New York Attorney General Letitia James, announced she would be looking into the Trump organisation’s business practices.

James alleges the former president “falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself and cheat the system”.

The lawsuit also takes aim at some of Trump’s children, and executives of his business.

During the deposition tape, Trump can be seen reading a lengthy statement.

During this, the former president asserts his constitutional right to not answer questions, while accusing James of investigating him out of political spite.

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