China is striving to curtail the world's biggest mass migration event when people go home to see family.
The Chinese mainland has banned meat products produced in Taiwan or transported via Taiwan in response to concerns of some netizens that US ractopamine-laced pork and beef imports greenlit by Taiwan will flow into the mainland.
A Chinese mainland spokesperson yesterday rebuked Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party for saying Taiwan businessmen on the mainland are being “semi-forced” to receive COVID-19 vaccinations.“It should be emphasized that vaccination on the mainland is carried out entirely on the premise of voluntary application and informed consent.The so-called semi-forced inoculation claim made by some politicians and media outlets in the island is totally malicious disinformation,” said Zhu Fenglian, spokesperson for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council.An informed consent form is required for all vaccinations, and every Taiwan compatriot who receives the vaccination will fill in the form to express their personal wishes beforehand, Zhu stressed.Noting that the vaccination campaign is being carried out in an orderly manner across the mainland, the spokesperson said proper arrangements will be made for all eligible people. That includes Taiwan compatriots.Since Beijing started administering COVID-19 vaccines among key groups with higher infection risks on January 1, over 1.9 million people have received the first shot, she said.
From Chinese burgers to ice cream doused in chili oil, US fast-food giants are infusing their offerings with a Chinese flair. McDonald’s and KFC have long localized their menus to appeal to the Chinese palate, but their latest takes on traditional dishes and ingredients seem to be causing quite a buzz, and not always the good kind.Earlier this year, McDonald’s China added roujiamo, a street-food staple from Shaanxi Province, to its menu. Known as “Chinese burger,” it’s meat sandwiched between two flat buns. The limited-edition special, which the company said was in celebration of the upcoming Lunar New Year, was met with frowns and confused looks.Many said that the roujiamo looked nothing like the advertisement, while others said that the sandwich is a snack and has no place on any breakfast menu. There was also a bit of confusion about how much meat was hiding between the bread — some complained the filling was less-than-generous, others had no issue with it. But the general consensus seemed that MacDonald’s is more gifted at making classic burgers than their Chinese counterpart.“It does not taste good,” said a customer giving her name as Zhang. The amount of meat didn’t bother her, but she said she prefers her roujiamo from a food stall than a fast food chain.Undeterred by the negative roujiamo reviews, the Golden Arches on Monday served another dose of controversy. It debuted a “spicy chili oil sundae,” which combines a vanilla-flavored soft serve covered in chili oil.The item is part of a new promotional activity whereby McDonald’s offers once a month a new creation, first redeemable by members for free using a coupon and then available to the public for a limited period.The sweet-and-spicy dessert was to be sold in select McDonald’s stores, including in Shanghai and Shenzhen, from Tuesday through Sunday. But the company said it is suspending the offer “due to the COVID-19 pandemic” in a statement on Weibo.The menu addition was predictably divisive. Some were optimistic about the flavor and called it “innovative,” others however noted that the combination of spice, oil, and ice cream spells bad news for their digestive system.
Chinese authorities want people to stay home for this year’s Chinese New Year — traditionally a time for family reunions — to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. All localities should do their best in providing services to people at home during the Spring Festival holiday which starts on February 12, an official with the country’s top economic planning body said yesterday.Residents in COVID-19 high-risk zones must stay where they live, according to a circular recently issued by the general offices of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council.Those living in low-risk areas are advised to avoid non-essential travel. People should avoid traveling to medium and high-risk areas.All localities should guarantee a stable supply of basic necessities, and smooth logistics and transportation services to meet the needs for online and offline activities of people who stay where they work during the holiday, said Zhao Chenxin, secretary general of the National Development and Reform Commission.These efforts are of great significance to contain the COVID-19 spread during the Spring Festival and effectively protect people’s health and safety.Zhao, however, asked local governments to desist from adopting a blunt, one-size-fits-all approach when implementing the policy.Efforts should also be made to ensure that those who work during the holiday enjoy due overtime payments and rest as per the relevant laws.Shanghai has imposed tough restrictions on travel.To curb the pandemic. Apart from returning home, family visits and essential business affairs, non-native residents are being asked to avoid leaving Shanghai, or going abroard.China will roll out a slew of measures to guarantee supplies of daily necessities during the Spring Festival.A total of 20,000 to 30,000 tons of pork from China’s central reserves will be released into the market every week to meet the rising demand during the holiday, Zhu Xiaoliang, an official with the Ministry of Commerce, said at a press conference held by the State Council joint prevention and control mechanism against COVID-19.Zhu urged major wholesale markets of farm produce, catering companies, hotels and shopping malls to extend their business hours during the holiday to facilitate offline consumption.To meet consumers’ demand for online shopping, the country will also guide e-commerce platforms and logistics companies to continue working during the Spring Festival to ensure the normal operation of all services.
Hong Kong has begun using “ambush lockdowns” to suddenly close off and test everyone inside neighbourhoods where coronavirus cases have spiked.Police cordoned off a row of densely packed tenement buildings in the Yau Ma Tei area overnight on Tuesday through to yesterday morning for mandatory tests.No warning of an impending lockdown is given.City leader Carrie Lam said such “ambush style” lockdowns were needed to ensure people did not flee before testers move in.“I thank residents in the restricted area for their cooperation,” she wrote on her Facebook page yesterday as the lockdown was lifted.A similar two-day lockdown in a neighborhood over the weekend was leaked to the media a day before police moved in.Some 330 tests were conducted in 20 buildings, with one coronavirus case found.But authorities say further ambush lockdowns may be necessary in the days ahead.In recent weeks stubborn clusters have emerged in low-income neighborhoods notorious for some of the world’s most cramped housing.
China is cracking down to make sure it has the best teachers and catch those who act unethically. It will establish a disclosure mechanism to expose ethics violations by teaching staff in higher education, the Ministry of Education said yesterday.During the faculty recruitment process, a nationwide sex offender database will be checked to bar those unqualified from teaching jobs, said Ren Youqun, a ministry official in charge of teachers’ work.Professional ethics have come first and foremost in faculty recruitment, the conferral of academic titles, teaching work placement, the selection of dissertation supervisors, teaching performance appraisals and research fund applications at colleges and universities, said Ren.
BEIJING tightened curbs on inbound travelers ahead of the peak Lunar New Year travel season kicking off today, requiring negative COVID-19 test results even from individuals arriving from China’s low-risk areas.
People from low-risk areas in China arriving between January 28 and March 15 must show negative results for COVID-19 tests taken within seven days before entry, Xu Hejian, spokesman of the Beijing city government, said yesterday.
Visitors from areas of high- or medium-risk areas where infections have been found, or from cities that are under lockdown, will not be allowed to enter Beijing, according to existing rules.
After arrival, travelers who are allowed in must monitor their health for signs of infection for 14 days, though they will be allowed to move freely, and COVID-19 tests will also be performed on the seventh and 14th day, Xu said.
The tighter measures come even as China’s mainland recorded its lowest daily increase in COVID-19 cases in more than two weeks. The curbs will also overlap with the start of China’s annual parliamentary meeting in Beijing on March 5.
Earlier yesterday, the National Health Commission said 75 new confirmed cases were reported in China’s mainland on January 26, down from 82 a day earlier. That was the lowest single-day rise since January 11, suggesting aggressive measures implemented to curb a resurgence of the disease are working.
Fifty-five of the new cases were local transmissions, with the remaining 20 classified as imported cases.
More than half the locally transmitted cases were reported in the northeastern Heilongjiang Province. Fourteen cases were reported in neighboring Jilin Province, seven in Hebei Province, which surrounds Beijing, and four in the capital itself.
Authorities across the country have rolled out measures including home quarantine, travel curbs and mass testing in a bid to contain the disease ahead of the holiday.
Government officials have repeatedly urged people to refrain from taking unnecessary trips and stay put during the holiday break. Those who press on with their trips must present a negative COVID-19 nucleic acid test result taken seven days before returning home.
Two of the surviving miners have described how they made contact with rescuers while underground.
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Police in southwest China’s Yunnan Province have busted a case in which over 5 kilograms of methamphetamine hidden in an express parcel was seized, local authorities said yesterday. Police intercepted the suspected parcel in Zhenxiong County administrated by Zhaotong City on January 13, and seized 10 packages of methamphetamine weighing 5.49kg that were hidden in a stereo. The operation followed a tip-off that drug dealers planned to traffic the drugs from Kunming, capital of Yunnan, to Zhenxiong. Three people have been arrested.
Health authorities in Taiwan are quarantining 5,000 people while looking for the source of two new coronavirus cases linked to a hospital. Officials said on Monday that they have not been able to identify how the husband and wife became infected after a brief hospital stay in the Taoyuan General Hospital, in the city of Taoyuan just outside Taipei. The man had stayed at the hospital for three days for health problems unrelated to COVID-19, while his wife looked after him.
China’s blacklist system for cross-border gambling tourist destinations will add more overseas destinations to its list, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism said yesterday.The ministry, in conjunction with relevant departments, will make a list of the second batch of overseas destinations that attract Chinese tourists for gambling, which will be added to the system.In order to better regulate the tourism market and safeguard the lives and property of Chinese citizens, the blacklist system was established through concerted efforts of multiple departments, including the MCT, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Public Security.Travel restrictions will be imposed on Chinese citizens heading to overseas cities and scenic areas on the list.
Two Chinese miners who were dramatically rescued after being trapped underground for two weeks yesterday described their joy and relief at being free.Eleven men out of a group of 22 were pulled out alive by rescue workers on Sunday after a January 10 mine blast in east China’s Shandong Province entombed them hundreds of meters underground.“I feel like I am reborn,” one of the miners, surnamed Du, was quoted as saying by state broadcaster CGTN yesterday, wearing pyjamas as he spoke to reporters from his hospital bed. “We had no food to eat for the first nine days. There are no words to describe the feeling. So relieved.”Du was part of a group of 11 miners who first made contact with rescuers on January 17 by sending up a note though a long shaft drilled down into the rock. They were then sent food and medicine and phones to communicate.“We knew clearly how hard it was to drill that deep. We were trapped nearly 600 meters below ground. It was a daunting task,” said another survivor surnamed Wang. “We are so happy.”One of the first group died last week of head injuries sustained from the explosion, while a further nine workers found in a different part of the mine were confirmed dead on Monday. Rescue teams are searching for one further miner, who remains unaccounted for.The survivors are all in stable condition in hospital.“We comforted each other with encouraging words. That’s how we pulled through,” said Du from his hospital bed, adding that some of the group were “pessimistic, while others were hopeful.”Emergency workers battled difficult conditions, including high waters in parts of the mine, to drill several holes to reach the trapped miners.Another miner was found alive by rescuers as they attempted to reach the group of ten on Sunday.Both the local Communist Party secretary and the mayor have been sacked over the 30-hour delay and an official investigation is under way to determine the cause of the explosion.
Chinese archeologists have found the ruins of an ancient urban water system from the Shang Dynasty (1,600-1,046 BC) in central China’s Henan Province. It is believed to be the earliest urban water system in the dynasty.The water system is part of the Yanshi ruins, an ancient city discovered by archeologists in 1983. The city, spreading over about 2 square kilometers, was built in three layers — the big city, the small city and the city palace.“The internal water system was mainly used for drainage, and the external water system included a moat and two river courses,” said Chen Guoliang, an archeologist with Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and leader of the archeological team at Yanshi ruins.The internal and external systems were connected, which not only facilitated drainage and prevented waterlogging, but also landscaped the palace with a water surface area of nearly 3,000 square meters.Archeologists also confirmed that there were at least two east-west ditches in the small city, which they speculate were dug during different periods.
“Zhang Jiawang,” 73, survived a heart attack last month with successful surgery and recently returned home with his thankful family.Had it happened three months earlier, the surgery would have put the family, already experiencing financial straits, deep in debt.To save Zhang, the hospital used five coronary stents. The tiny stents, with an average weight of only 0.03 grams, are the main form of intervention used to keep arteries open in the treatment of coronary heart disease.They were once priced about 13,000 yuan (US$2,000) each in China. Today they cost only 700 yuan on average. The massive price cut followed the initial round of the Chinese government’s centralized procurement program for high-value medical consumables last November.According to the National Organized Joint Procurement Office of Medical Precious Consumables in Tianjin, since January 1, the discounted price of stents has been applied in 27 provincial-level administrations.In Zhang’s case, the five stents cost him around 3,200 yuan, 93 percent less than the cost before the new program. The whole surgery cost the family less than 50,000 yuan, less than half what it used to cost.“It’s a great burden off the family’s shoulders,” said “Hai Tang,” Zhang’s daughter-in-law. “We’re living in a good time.”According to a report published by the National Center for Cardiovascular Diseases in September last year, the number of cardiovascular patients was estimated at 330 million. From 2009 to 2019, the number of operations for heart disease increased from 230,000 to more than 1 million a year.About 1.5 million coronary stents are used in China every year, which previously cost patients around 15 billion yuan collectively.The bulk-buying program is part of government-led efforts to address inflated prices and other issues in the distribution of pricey medical supplies, cutting out intermediate links, such as middlemen and pharmaceutical sales representatives, to buy directly from manufacturers.“Our hearts are connected with those of our patients,” said Gao Xue, leader of the centralized purchasing team of the National Organized Joint Procurement Office of Medical Precious Consumables.“It is the greatest joy to hear the tremendous benefit patients are getting from this program. There are more pleasant surprises in store as we continue to bring down inflated prices.”
A total of 604,000 Chinese officials, including 27 at the provincial and ministerial level, were penalized for violating Communist Party of China discipline and laws in 2020, according to the country’s top anti-graft body. Disciplinary and supervisory authorities across the country received 3.23 million public tip-offs and opened investigations into 618,000 cases, the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and the National Supervisory Commission said yesterday.
CHINA’S COVID-19 vaccines based on the inactivated virus can be upgraded to cope with new variants in about two months, the Global Times reported yesterday citing an expert with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
There are concerns that vaccines developed over the last year may be less effective against new variants of the virus discovered recently in Britain and South Africa. Moderna Inc said on Monday it would test a new booster shot aimed at the South African variant after concluding the antibody response could be diminished.
Vaccines from Sinovac Biotech and China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm), which are being used in China and overseas, contain the inactivated virus that cannot replicate in human cells. If necessary, an upgrade for China’s inactivated COVID-19 vaccine could be completed in about two months, Shao Yiming, a CDC scientist, said.
The neutralizing ability of antibodies induced by Chinese vaccines, which were developed in accordance with the variant spreading in Wuhan city in late 2019, appeared weaker against recently discovered variants in the UK and South Africa, Shao said, citing studies by Chinese vaccine companies and labs.
The redesign of inactivated COVID-19 vaccines could take longer than for vaccines based on messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, which does not require cultivating and inactivating the virus, according to Shao, who participates in technical reviews of China’s COVID-19 vaccines.
The mRNA technology is used in vaccines developed by Pfizer Inc and Moderna.
A woman, who tried to hide her COVID-19 symptoms by taking anti-fever medication in March last year, has been given a year’s suspended sentence in prison, according to the People’s Court in Beijing’s Shunyi District.
The woman surnamed Li and a US resident visited a local hospital for fever and fatigue, and was tested for COVID-19 on March 11. But she boarded a flight from Boston via Los Angeles to China without waiting for the test results. She took a fever-reducing drug and hid her health details from the flight crew. She informed them about her condition while filling up the health form before landing in China.
Li was sent to a hospital in Beijing on March 13, and tested positive for COVID-19. She, along with her 63 close contacts, was immediately placed in quarantine.
IPHIE Nie, a 30-year-old designer in Beijing who usually travels to visit family in her hometown of Shenzhen during the Lunar New Year has, like many Chinese, reluctantly decided against booking a flight for the mid-February holiday.
To limit the spread of COVID-19, the government has discouraged travel in what is normally the busiest time of the year. Those who are going anyway must present a nucleic acid test with negative results taken in the seven days before returning home.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China said yesterday that passengers who bought tickets for flights scheduled from January 28 to March 8 are entitled to full refunds.
Airline bookings made as of January 19 for Lunar New Year travel have plunged 73.7 percent compared with the holiday period in 2019, according to data from travel analytics firm ForwardKeys provided to Reuters. ForwardKeys did not provide 2020 data, saying the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak distorted the numbers.
Bookings had been down 57.3 percent from 2019 as of January 1, with the situation deteriorating due to outbreaks leading to tighter restrictions.
“Even though I’m in a low-risk area, people in my hometown would get a bit nervous when they hear that I just got back from Beijing. It’s just too much trouble,” Nie said.
Beijing has reported new COVID-19 cases for 11 consecutive days and nationwide case numbers, while tiny by the standards of most Western countries, are at 10-month highs. Many employees working for state-owned companies or government agencies have been told not to travel without management approval.
Some people who already bought air tickets are considering canceling. “I’ve already booked a ticket but I still haven’t made up my mind yet,” said Kathy Qi, a 29-year-old office worker in Beijing from Henan.
A report by aviation data provider Variflight predicts a reduction of 6 million trips over Lunar New Year as a result of the COVID-19 test requirement and home quarantine rules, with about 50 percent of travelers likely to cancel.
Ticket prices, normally at their peak during Lunar New Year, have plunged. As of January 25, flight tickets sold on Qunar.com, an online travel platform, averaged 651.36 yuan (US$100) during the holiday, the lowest level in five years, the Beijing-based company said on Monday.
THE ninth round of China-India Corps Commander Level Meeting was held on the Chinese side of the Moldo-Chushul border meeting point on Sunday, a joint press release said.
The two sides had a candid and in-depth exchange of views on disengagement along the Line of Actual Control in the Western Sector of China-India border areas, the release said.
Both sides agreed that this round of meeting was positive, practical and constructive, which further enhanced mutual trust and understanding, and agreed to push for an early disengagement of the frontline troops.
INDIA’S ministry of electronics and information technology has issued fresh notices to make permanent a ban imposed on video app TikTok and 58 other Chinese apps in June.
When it first imposed the ban, the Indian government gave the 59 apps a chance to explain their position on compliance with privacy and security requirements, the Times of India reported.
The companies, which include ByteDance’s popular video-sharing app TikTok, Tencent Holdings’ WeChat and Alibaba’s UC Browser, were also asked to respond to a list of questions, the newspaper said.
“The government is not satisfied with the response/explanation given by these companies. Hence, the ban for these 59 apps is permanent now,” Livemint newspaper quoted a source familiar with the notices, which were issued last week.
The ministry’s June order stated that the apps were “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defense of India, security of state and public order.”
The order, which India referred to as a “digital strike,” followed a skirmish with Chinese troops at a Himalayan border site.
In September, India banned another 118 mobile apps.
A TikTok representative told the Economic Times newspaper that the company was evaluating the notice and will respond to it as appropriate.
Before Wuhan was locked down in January 2020 officials said the outbreak was under control - but the virus had spread inside and outside the city.
The discovery comes a day after 11 miners were rescued after two weeks trapped underground.
FORMER Vice Minister of Culture and Tourism Li Jinzao has been expelled from the Communist Party of China and dismissed from public office over serious violations of Party discipline and laws, the top anti-graft body announced yesterday.
Li was also removed from his position as a delegate to the 19th CPC National Congress.
The CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and the National Supervisory Commission said in a statement that they had conducted an investigation into Li’s case.
Li was accused of being dishonest and disloyal to the Party and resisting the authorities’ investigation.
The investigation found that Li, in violation of the CPC’s code of conduct, had been frequently attending banquets that risked compromising the impartiality of his work and accepting money and gifts, according to the statement.
He had provided help for others during official selection and appointment procedures, accepting money and gifts in return.
He also took advantage of his positions to seek benefits for his relatives’ businesses, or help others in business operation and project contracting and accept huge amounts of money and gifts in exchange.
The investigation found that Li had led a corrupt life and colluded with his family in profit-seeking activities.
Li severely violated Party discipline and is suspected of taking bribes, the statement said. He showed no restraint even after the 18th CPC National Congress. His illicit gains will be confiscated, and the case transferred to the procuratorate for further investigation and prosecution.
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