China’s low vaccination rates, particularly among the older population, have long been seen as prolonging Beijing’s no-tolerance approach to COVID-19.
Just 65.8 per cent of people over 80 are fully vaccinated, NHC officials told a press conference Tuesday.
And China has not yet approved mRNA vaccines, proven to be more effective, for public use.
Many fear that lifting that policy while swathes of the population remain not fully immunised could overwhelm China’s healthcare system and cause over a million deaths.
But the zero-COVID policy has stoked massive unrest, with people taking to the streets in China’s major cities on Sunday to protest draconian lockdowns and broader restrictions on freedom of movement.
A deadly fire last week in Urumqi, the capital of northwest China’s Xinjiang region, was the catalyst for the wave of outrage, with protesters blaming COVID-19 restrictions for hampering rescue efforts – claims the government has denied.
China logged 38,421 domestic infections Tuesday, slightly down from record highs seen over the weekend and comparably low when compared to caseloads seen in western countries during the height of the pandemic.