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Is COVID Finally Catching Up With China?

China's being surrounded. COVID cases are all around them. The country with the most daily new cases in the world is South Korea (3883,651 new cases reported Friday). Second most new cases Friday: Vietnam with 169,935 new cases. Russia reported 48,154 new cases on Friday and Hong Kong reported 27,747. Malaysia had 26,250 and Thailand 24,592.

China only reported 588 new cases. But for China, that's alarming, alarming enough to cause the government to panic and start locking down cities and provinces. There have only been 113,528 cases in total and just 4,636 deaths. Look at it another way. Until now, China has had 81 cases per million residents. Compare that to countries that have... fared less well:

  • Netherlands- 416,777 cases per million

  • Israel- 398,825 cases per million

  • France- 358,895 cases per million

  • U.K.- 285,159 cases per million

  • USA- 242,828 cases per million

  • Germany- 204,665 cases per million

  • Mongolia- 138,673 cases per million

  • South Korea- 133,730 cases per million

  • Hong Kong- 93,010 cases per million

  • Japan- 45,878 cases per million

  • Taiwan- 894 cases per million

Here's the problem, over the last 2 weeks, China's daily average caseload is up a staggering 452%. And although 88% of the residents are fully vaccinated, there are divergent opinions on the efficacy of China's vaccines. This morning, the Times of London reported that China is locking down big cities as cases tripled over the weekend. "China forced millions of people into lockdown and closed big cities yesterday after the number of coronavirus cases tripled in 24 hours, marking the country’s worst day since the original Wuhan outbreak. The country recorded nearly 3,400 new community infections, forcing lockdowns on virus hotspots including Shenzhen, where 17 million residents were prohibited from leaving the city before being tested, after the discovery of 60 cases. A nationwide surge in cases has forced the authorities to close schools in Shanghai and lock down several northeastern cities, as almost 19 provinces fight to control clusters of the Omicron and Delta variants."

Also this morning, NPR reported that "The vast majority of the new cases were in far northeastern Jilin province with 895. Shenzhen reported 75 new cases as residents began the first of three rounds of mass testing. Officials on Sunday locked down the city, which has 17.5 million people and is a major tech and finance hub that neighbors Hong Kong. The surge on the Chinese mainland is infecting people in cities ranging from Shenzhen to Qingdao on the coast, to Xingtai in the north and the numbers have crept steadily higher since early March. While the numbers are small relative to numbers reported in Europe or in the U.S., or even the city of Hong Kong, which had reported 32,000 cases Sunday, they are the highest since the first big outbreak of COVID-19 in the central city of Wuhan in early 2020. China has seen very few infections since its strict Wuhan lockdown as the government held fast to its zero-tolerance strategy, which is focused on stopping transmission of the coronavirus as fast as possible, by relying on strict lockdowns and mandatory quarantines for anyone who has come into contact with a positive case. The government has indicated it will continue to stick to its strict strategy of stopping transmission for the time being... Much of the current outbreak is being driven the variant commonly known as "stealth omicron," or the B.A.2 lineage of the omicron variant, Zhang noted. Early research suggests it spreads faster than the original omicron, which itself spread faster than the original virus and other variants."

Bloomberg News explained how this news is starting to manifest itself. "China placed the 17.5 million residents of Shenzhen into lockdown for at least a week, spurring a key Apple Inc supplier to halt production in the vital technology hub, and forbid people from leaving Jilin, the first time an entire province has been sealed off since the dramatic lockdown of Wuhan and its surrounds in 2020."

The Shenzhen lockdown, which came after new virus cases doubled nationwide to nearly 3,400, will be accompanied by three rounds of city-wide, mass testing. Called with little notice on Sunday, the order followed earlier restrictions placed on Shenzhen’s central business district, and will last until March 20.
All bus and subway systems in the city were shut, and businesses, except those providing essential services, have been closed. Employees were told to work from home if they can. Residents will be barred from leaving the city-- home to the headquarters of tech giants Huawei Technologies Co. and Tencent Holdings Ltd, as well as one of China’s busiest ports-- except in limited situations. Shenzhen Yantian Port remains operational, though with tighter Covid controls.
Apple supplier Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., known as Foxconn, said it was halting operations at its Shenzhen sites, one of which makes iPhones. The company, which has its China HQ in the city, didn’t specify the length of the shutdown, though said it would reallocate production to other plants in the country.
In Jilin, a province of 24 million that borders Russia and North Korea in China’s northeast, people have been asked not to leave or travel, particularly those in the provincial capital of Changchun and the city of Jilin, where the majority of infections have been found. Changchun was already locked down last week, forcing Toyota to suspend the operation of its plant there.
The growing clusters spawned by the highly infectious omicron variant in some of China’s most developed cities and economic zones have turned into an unprecedented challenge for the country’s Covid Zero strategy. The policy, which gave China long periods virus free and one of the lowest death rates in the worlds, is leaving the country increasingly isolated as other countries open up and live with the virus. Until now, officials had largely resisted more hardcore measures such as lockdowns in China’s biggest cities and relied more on targeted responses, only to see omicron continue to flare. China hasn’t seen a virus fatality since January 2021.
The surge in infections in Shenzhen is thought to be linked to an unbridled outbreak in neighboring Hong Kong, which went from a handful of cases to more than 30,000 in about a month. A Covid flareup in Shanghai has also seen most schools returned to online learning and travel into the city restricted. Bus services from other provinces were halted at the weekend, and China’s aviation regulator is in discussions with airlines about diverting all international flights.

China has failed to develop mRNA technology and its Sinovac vaccine, while not nearly as worthless as Russia's phony vaccine program, is significantly less effective against omicron-- even with a booster. "Even prior to omicron, Sinovac’s efficacy rates were lower than those of other vaccines, offering about 51% protection against symptomatic infection (though much better protection against severe disease). In July, a study in Thailand found that antibodies from a double shot of the Sinovac vaccine halved every 40 days against the original covid strain. Researchers at Hong Kong University found that two doses followed by a booster of Sinovac’s CoronaVac do not provide enough antibodies to neutralize omicron, though a booster of a Pfizer vaccine improved protection... Similarly, a booster may not make Sinopharm significantly more effective against omicron. Sinopharm has said its vaccine is 79% effective against symptomatic infection from the original covid strain... Some countries, including Thailand and the Philippines, that had originally procured China-made vaccines started moving away from Sinovac and Sinopharm in mid-2021 after they were shown to be less effective during waves of the delta variant, in favor of the vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna."

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