China to vaccinate 50 million people in high-priority groups against Covid-19

China has five coronavirus vaccines in the final stages of development. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING/NANJING (REUTERS, AFP, XINHUA) - China is planning to vaccinate 50 million people in the high-priority group against the coronavirus before the start of the peak Chinese New Year travel season early next year, the South China Morning Post reported on Friday (Dec 18).

Beijing is planning to distribute 100 million doses of the vaccines made by Chinese firms Sinopharm and Sinovac Biotech, the report said.

China has granted emergency use status to two candidate vaccines from Sinopharm and one from Sinovac Biotech. It has approved a fourth, from CanSino Biologics, for military use.

The South China Morning Post report said that Chinese officials have been asked to complete the first 50 million doses by Jan 15 and the second by Feb 5.

The mass inoculation for high-priority groups aims to reduce the risks of the spread of the disease during the annual weeklong holiday, the report added.

The high-priority group includes health workers, police officers, firefighters, customs officers, cargo handlers, as well as transport and logistics workers.

Meanwhile, China's Sichuan province could start vaccinating the elderly and people with underlying conditions at the beginning of next month, after it completes inoculations for priority groups, officials have said.

Officials said on Thursday that 118,000 vaccine doses had arrived in the province so far, with plans to inoculate all high-risk groups by Feb 5 before rolling out the programme to the rest of the population.

Sichuan is the first province to outline a timeline of its vaccination plans for the public.

The coronavirus, which first emerged in China late last year, has largely been brought under control in the country, but there have been a series of domestic outbreaks.

Sichuan has been hit by a small cluster of Covid-19 cases in recent weeks.

As of Friday noon, China has reported a cumulative 94,734 confirmed Covid-19 cases, with 4,759 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Meanwhile in eastern China's Jiangsu Province, authorities said samples collected from the packaging of imported frozen hairtail fish have tested positive for Covid-19.

The city's Covid-19 prevention and control office said they detected the novel coronavirus in the packaging samples taken from the hairtail stored in a local food shop. The batch of fish had been imported from Myanmar.

Authorities have sealed relevant products that had been traced, and disinfected the facilities and vehicles used to store and transport the products.

A total of 17 people who came into contact with the contaminated packaging are currently under isolated observation and have all tested negative for Covid-19.

China has stepped up efforts to block the spread of Covid-19 through imported food. The Ministry of Transport released a guideline in mid-November to prevent the transmission of Covid-19 through cold-chain food imported via roads and waterways.

The State Council's joint prevention and control mechanism against Covid-19 has also unveiled a plan for full-chain, closed-loop, traceable management of imported cold-chain food.

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