China's editor praises Beijing for vaccinating the working population

China’s state editor slams the West’s ‘elderly people first’ COVID-19 vaccine strategy as he calls Beijing ‘responsible’ for prioritising the working population for jabs

  • Hu Xijin of The Global Times praised China for prioritising people aged 18 to 59
  • He lauded Beijing for having a ‘responsible attitude’ in tackling the coronavirus
  • The state-run paper warned the West against pinning its hope on the vaccines
  • A commentary urged the West to learn from China and adopt a national system
  • Comes as Beijing steps up its effort in shaping the narrative about the pandemic 

The editor-in-chief of a Communist Party-controlled newspaper in China has taken a swipe at the West for giving COVID-19 vaccines to elderly people first as Beijing steps up its effort in shaping the narrative about the coronavirus pandemic.

Hu Xijin, the head of state-run propaganda publication The Global Times, praised Beijing’s decision to inoculate its working population ahead of the others as ‘responsible’.

While the United Kingdom and other Western countries prioritise the immunisation of senior citizens and essential workers to reach herd immunity, China is racing to vaccinate those aged between 18 and 59 who work for the government and public services or have plans to travel overseas.

The UK prioritises the immunisation of senior citizens and essential workers to reach herd immunity against the novel coronavirus. Pictured, 82-year-old Brian Pinker receives the world’s first Oxford University and AstraZeneca vaccine in Oxford, England, on January 4

In comparison, China is racing to vaccinate those aged between 18 and 59 who work for the government and public services or have plans to travel overseas. Pictured, a medical worker vaccinates a man against the coronavirus at a health centre in Hefei, China, on December 29

Hu Xijin (pictured), the head of state-run propaganda outlet The Global Times, has praised Beijing’s decision to inoculate its working population ahead of the others as ‘responsible’

Hu’s harsh commentary came after an 82-year-old retired maintenance manager in Britain yesterday became the first person in the world to receive the Oxford University and AstraZeneca vaccine outside clinical trials.

It also came after PM Boris Johnson announced a new national lockdown from last night to tackle a surge in COVID-19 infections driven by a new, more transmissible variant of the virus.

Hu lashed out at the United States for promoting the Pfizer vaccine, the world’s first authorised COVID-19 jab which was approved by the UK authorities in early December.

He condemned the Trump Administration for ‘touting’ the product ‘on insufficient evidence’, but did not provide further explanations.

He then hailed China’s homegrown COVID-19 vaccine, which is produced by state-run drug maker Sinopharm and said to have an efficacy rate of 79 per cent.

Hu condemned the Trump Administration for ‘touting’ the Pfizer vaccine ‘on insufficient evidence’, but did not provide further explanations. He praised China’s homegrown jabs

A nurse is pictured preparing a dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine before administering it to an 85-year-old woman at a vaccination centre in Potsdam, Germany, on January 5

On New Year’s Eve, Chinese health authorities granted ‘conditional’ approval to Sinopharm’s vaccine. The country is now aiming to vaccinate millions of people before the upcoming Lunar New Year travel rush in mid-February.

China is putting nine ‘key groups’ of people ahead of the queue in its immunisation campaign.

They include customs inspection and quarantine officers for imported frozen food, international and domestic transport workers, and employees of government organisations, police, fire brigades and local communities.

Staff in the logistics and public utility sectors are also included. So are those who plan to study or work overseas.

In Hu Says, an online talk show published by the Global Times, the outspoken, 60-year-old editor insisted that avoiding the elderly in COVID-19 vaccination reflected China’s ‘responsible attitude’.

‘Western public opinion believes that the COVID-19 vaccine should be first distributed among the elderly and that avoiding this group indicates that Sinopharm’s vaccine is not yet mature. I think it reflects China’s responsible attitude,’ Hu argued in English.

China’s capital city Beijing is racing to vaccinate nine ‘key groups’ of people ahead of Lunar New Year. Pictured, people walk to a COVID-19 vaccine center in Beijing on January 4

China is putting its working population at the top of the list. This photo shows people waiting to receive COVID-19 vaccines at a temporary vaccination centre in Beijing on January 3

Beijing has administered around 4.5million doses of largely unproven emergency vaccines this year. Pictured, people wait to board shuttle buses to a vaccine center in Beijing on January 4

Hu asserted that ‘very few’ new infections in China were elderly people, and that middle-aged and younger people who were socially active could spread the disease more quickly.

‘That’s why the Chinese government’s decision fits our situation on the ground,’ he concluded in the show.

While many countries are pinning their hope of beating coronavirus on the roll-out of vaccines, Hu’s Global Times compared the effect of the injections to ‘water hoses against a wildfire’ in the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a separate opinion piece, the Communist mouthpiece escalated its criticism against the West by calling on democratic countries to stop betting on vaccines and start learning from China and adopting a centralised social system.

‘A vaccine is a powerful weapon against the pandemic. But as the virus has spread extensively, the effect of vaccines is similar to water hoses against a wildfire,’ read the article which mainly ripped into the United States.

‘Other measures must be taken simultaneously to stop it from spreading, and finally being eradicated.’

The strongly-worded piece added: ‘The final outcome of the world’s COVID-19 fight may depend on whether the US and the West can carry out important reforms to make up for their shortcomings in social organisation and mobilisation.’ 

Chinese health authorities have granted ‘conditional’ approval to Sinopharm’s vaccine (pictured). The country is now aiming to vaccinate millions of people before mid-February

Worldwide, more than 85.27million people have been reported to be infected and 1,848,724 have died. Pictured, an elderly man riding his bicycle crosses a street in Beijing on January 4

China — where the coronavirus first emerged late in 2019 — has broadly stamped out the virus inside its borders, introducing swift local lockdowns and mass testing when cases emerge.

But the country has stepped up testing and movement controls after a recent spate of small local outbreaks, including a handful of cases in Beijing.

Worldwide, more than 85.27million people have been reported to be infected and 1,848,724 have died in the coronavirus pandemic, according to a Reuters tally.

China doubles down on COVID narrative as WHO investigation looms 

As a team from the World Health Organization (WHO) prepares to visit China to investigate the origins of COVID-19, Beijing has stepped up efforts not only to prevent new outbreaks, but also shape the narrative about when and where the pandemic began.

China has dismissed criticism of its early handling of the coronavirus, first identified in the city of Wuhan at the end of 2019, and foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Monday that the country would welcome the WHO team.

But amid simmering geopolitical tensions, experts said the investigators were unlikely to be allowed to scrutinise some of the more sensitive aspects of the outbreak, with Beijing desperate to avoid blame for a virus that has killed more than 1.8million people worldwide.

A security guard is pictured standing outside the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market -where the coronavirus was first detected – in Wuhan, China, on January 24, 2020

‘Even before this investigation, top officials from both sides have been very polarised in their opinions on the origins of the outbreak,’ said Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations, a US think tank.

‘They will have to be politically savvy and draw conclusions that are acceptable to all the major parties,’ he added.

While other countries continue to struggle with infection surges, China has aggressively doused flare-ups. After a new cluster of cases last week, the city of Shenyang sealed off entire communities and required all non-essential workers to stay home.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (pictured) is pictured during a meeting with Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides at the Heads of State Terminal of Larnaca International Airport, Cyprus, on January 4

On Saturday, senior diplomat Wang Yi praised the anti-pandemic efforts, saying China not only curbed domestic infections, but also ‘took the lead in building a global anti-epidemic defence’ by providing aid to more than 150 countries.

But mindful of the criticism China has faced worldwide, Wang also became the highest-ranking official to question the consensus about COVID-19’s origins, saying ‘more and more studies’ show that it emerged in multiple regions.

China is also the only country to claim COVID-19 can be transmitted via cold chain imports, with the country blaming new outbreaks in Beijing and Dalian on contaminated shipments – even though the WHO has downplayed those risks.

TRANSPARENCY

China has been accused of a cover-up that delayed its initial response, allowing the virus to spread further.

The topic remains sensitive, with only a handful of studies into the origins of COVID-19 made available to the public.

But there have also been signs China is willing to share information that contradicts the official picture.

Last week, a study by China’s Center for Disease Control showed that blood samples from 4.43 per cent of Wuhan’s population contained COVID-19 antibodies, indicating that the city’s infection rates were far higher than originally acknowledged.

This photo taken on February 22, 2020 shows medical staff checking notes in an intensive care unit treating COVID-19 coronavirus patients at a hospital in Wuhan

But scientists said China must also share any findings suggesting COVID-19 was circulating domestically long before it was officially identified in December 2019.

An Italian study showed that COVID-19 might have been in Europe several months before China’s first official case. Chinese state media used the paper to support theories that COVID-19 originated overseas and entered China via contaminated frozen food or foreign athletes competing at the World Military Games in Wuhan in October 2019.

Raina MacIntyre, head of the Kirby Institute’s Biosecurity Research Program in Australia, said the investigation needed to draw ‘a comprehensive global picture of the epidemiological clues’, including any evidence COVID-19 was present outside of China before December 2019.

However, political issues mean they are unlikely to be given much leeway to investigate one hypothesis, that the outbreak was caused by a leak at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, said MacIntyre.

‘I think it is unlikely all viruses in the lab at the time will be made available to the team,’ she said. ‘So I do not think we will ever know the truth.’

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