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How Beijing’s unvaccinated elderly is prolonging the lockdown

How Beijing’s unvaccinated elderly is prolonging the lockdown

Shanghai and Beijing have been in and out of lockdown for months, the Chinese economy is sputtering, urban unemployment for those aged between 18 and 26 has reached more than 18 per cent, and supply chain breakdowns have exacerbated global economic woes.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said in May that the “current employment trends in China are complex and severe”. “It is now more of a priority than ever,” he said.

As the rest of the world moves on from COVID-19, China is cancelling international events scheduled for this year and next, including the Shanghai International Film Festival in June, the United Nations summit on biodiversity in December and the 2023 Asian football cup.

Alfred Wu, a professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, says many in China “anticipated that this year would be the year the door would open”.

“But now they aren’t seeing any signs of that,” he says. “It has fundamental implications for the whole world.”

China has achieved a remarkable 90 per cent vaccine coverage out of a population of 1.4 billion and limited total official deaths to less than 6000 people. But a core group of residents simply refuse to get vaccinated. Officials worry they are holding parts of its economy hostage because of their sheer number. Despite public pleas, Hou said the number who have been convinced to get jabs has only grown by an average of 0.7 percentage points per month.

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There are more than 90 million Chinese citizens aged over 60 who are undervaccinated. Credit:Sanghee Liu

“Once we miss the [summer] window period, winter will become the peak period of the epidemic,” he said last week. “[We need] to take advantage of the fresh memory of the current epidemic.”

US researchers from George Washington University analysed 11,000 Weibo…

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