U.S. criticizes China’s zero Covid strategy, says Beijing needs to boost vaccination among elderly

The White House on Monday criticized Beijing’s Zero Covid strategy as ineffective and said the Chinese people have the right to protest peacefully.

A spokesman for the president said, “We have long said that everyone here in the United States and around the world has the right to peacefully protest. That includes the PRC.” Joe Biden’s The National Security Council said in a statement.

Rare protests against the COVID lockdowns took place in Beijing, Shanghai, Urumqi and other cities over the weekend. Nearly three years after the virus first emerged in Wuhan, China is still implementing strict social controls to quell the COVID outbreak, while countries like the US have largely returned to normal life.

An NSC spokesperson said, “We have said that zero COVID is not the policy we are following here in the United States.” “And as we’ve said, we think it will be very difficult for the People’s Republic of China to be able to contain this virus through its zero COVID strategy.”

The spokesperson said the US COVID response is focused on increasing vaccination rates and making testing and treatment more accessible.

China’s tight Covid controls have kept deaths much lower than in the US, but the measures have also severely disrupted economic and social life. According to the World Health Organisation, more than 30,000 people have died of COVID in China since the start of the pandemic. More than one million people have died in America.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the US, said that China’s approach to Covid “doesn’t make sense for public health.” Vaccination rates among the elderly, one of the most vulnerable groups to COVID, are lower in China than in other countries. The vaccination campaign in China first focused on people in important positions, then on people aged 18 to 59, and only then on people aged 60 and older.

Fauci told NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday, “If you look at the prevalence of vaccination among the elderly, it was almost counterproductive, the people you really needed to protect weren’t getting protected. ” He said a temporary lockdown might make sense if the goal was to buy time to boost vaccination rates, but China is not doing that.

“It looks like in China, it was just a very strict extraordinary lockdown where you lock people in the house, but without any endgame,” Fauci said.

As of August, about 86% of people aged 60 and older in China were fully vaccinated and 68% had received boosters. According to a September report by China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, By comparison, 92% of older Americans were fully vaccinated and 70% received boosters during the same period.

Fauci said that China’s domestically developed vaccines are also not very effective.

The authors of the China CDC report said that older people are more apprehensive about vaccines. Clinical trials did not enroll enough older people and as a result there was not enough data on vaccine safety and efficacy for this age group when the vaccination campaign began, they wrote.

Dr. Ashish Jha, head of the White House Covid Task Force, said that China should focus on ensuring that the elderly are vaccinated.

Jha said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, “I think this is the way out of this virus. It will be very difficult to maintain the lockdown and zero Covid.”