The authorities in at least 12 cities in China have warned residents that those who refuse Covid-19 vaccinations could be punished if they are found to be responsible for spreading outbreaks.
The latest government notices, issued this and last week, reflect China’s anxiety about stamping out the more transmissible Delta variant, which has spread recently in several cities. China has fully vaccinated roughly 55 percent of its population, but officials have said that rate needs to hit 80 percent for the country to reach herd immunity.
While private companies and government organizations in many countries are mandating Covid-19 vaccinations, China appears to be going much further in tying a refusal to get a vaccine to direct punishment.
The authorities said they would “hold accountable” people who refused to be vaccinated if they were responsible for spreading an outbreak, unless they had a medical exemption. They did not specify what the punishment would be. On Aug. 17, several cities in central Hubei Province announced that people who refused to be vaccinated would have that entered into their “personal credit score.” They could be barred from going to work or entering hospitals and train stations.
On Weibo, a popular instant messaging platform, some Chinese expressed anger at the latest mandates. Many said the policy went against their free will.
Although China has managed to reduce its number of daily cases to single digits, the recent outbreak has posed a threat to the government’s resolve in maintaining a zero-Covid strategy.
In other news from around the world:
New South Wales, the most populous state in Australia, reported another daily record on Wednesday, with 919 new coronavirus cases. Its capital, Sydney, has now been locked down for two months. There are concerns that Sydney’s health care system is struggling to cope with the Delta outbreak after reports that one hospital at the cluster’s epicenter has started limiting the number of new patients it can admit. On Wednesday, the state of Queensland closed its borders to New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory, all of which are struggling to contain outbreaks, with Queensland authorities saying its quarantine system was overwhelmed.
Five people in New Zealand may have been given saline solution instead of a vaccine dose at a center in Auckland, the country’s largest city, last month. Ashley Bloomfield, New Zealand’s top health official, said at a news conference on Wednesday that it was only a “possibility” that some of the 732 people vaccinated that day had not received a dose. On Wednesday, New Zealand reported 62 new cases, its highest daily total in more than a year, bringing its total for the pandemic to 3,160, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The country had gone months without a case before an outbreak last week precipitated an immediate national lockdown.
The western Pacific’s share of global coronavirus cases and deaths is “rising sharply” partially because of the Delta variant, the World Health Organization said in a briefing on Wednesday. “Until a few weeks ago our region had fared comparatively well, with around 2 percent of global cases and global deaths,” said Dr. Takeshi Kasai, the W.H.O. western Pacific regional director. However, in the first three weeks of August, that number jumped to 10 percent of new global cases and 8 percent of new global deaths, he said.
A day after the Tokyo Paralympics held a spectator-free opening ceremony, Japan expanded its state of emergency to eight more prefectures on Wednesday, with 21 of the country’s 47 prefectures now under an emergency order. The number of new daily cases has increased by 65 percent over the past two weeks, to an average of 23,003 a day, according to a New York Times database. The state of emergency is expected to last until Sept. 12. The Paralympics, which close on Sept. 5, are being held almost entirely without spectators, much like the Olympics earlier this month.
Vice President Kamala Harris on Wednesday promised a million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to Vietnam, which has been dealing with its worst outbreak to date. The pledge would bring total U.S. vaccine donations to the country to six million doses. Vietnam has also begun offering patients who have recovered from Covid a monthly allowance if they agree to stay on at stretched hospitals to help health workers, Reuters reported. The news agency cited a letter to patients from a hospital chief that promised “personal protective equipment, food, accommodation and a monthly allowance of 8 million dong,” about $350.
Natasha Frost, Hikari Hida and Yan Zhuang contributed reporting.