China is imposing new rules in five provinces to restrict the movement of unvaccinated people.
The regulations bar those without at least one COVID shot from using a range of public facilities.
Without proof of vaccination, one will not be allowed entry to hospitals, supermarkets, and malls.
The vaccine-hesitant population in at least five Chinese provinces won't have much choice but to get their COVID jab soon. The Chinese government announced this week that several provinces will impose a gamut of new guidelines to limit where the unvaccinated can go.
Jiangxi and Zhejiang in eastern China, Shandong in the northeast, Shaanxi in the northwest, and Fujian in the south, will roll out rules within the next month that mandate proof of vaccination to use public facilities, per the South China Morning Post.
According to the SCMP, these tight regulations will not apply to those who are exempted for medical reasons. But if someone falls into this category, they must carry on their person written proof of exemption from a medical institution.
From July 26, Jiangxi will limit unvaccinated individuals over 18 from entering supermarkets, shopping malls, hospitals, transport hubs, and schools if they have not received at least one COVID shot.
The deadline to get an initial COVID shot in Zhejiang kicks in even earlier, on July 21. Those who miss the deadline to get their first COVID shot will be prevented from entering hospitals, nursing homes, childcare centers, movie theaters, libraries, and museums. Fujian province is imposing similar restrictions to Zhejiang and will require proof of vaccination from August 1.
Shaanxi's notice indicated that the provincial government "actively discourages" people from visiting public facilities like restaurants, hotels, gyms, and places of worship unless vaccinated.
According to Chinese state media Xinhua, China has long maintained that it will operate its vaccine drive on a voluntary basis. Because of this, the new slate of restrictive COVID regulations took people on Weibo (the country's version of Twitter) by surprise.
"With these drastic measures, this is obviously not voluntary vaccination anymore, it's mandatory vaccination in disguise. If you restrict someone's ability to go anywhere, that leaves them no choice but to get their COVID shot," wrote a Weibo user with the ID SuCheYa.
China's relentless race to get its people vaxxed
China's move to force citizens to get vaccinated or have their freedom of movement curtailed is part of its relentless drive to reach herd immunity by inoculating at least 85% of its 1.3 billion-strong population.
According to the Chinese state-linked media outlet Global Times, China wants more than 64% of its population to be vaccinated by the end of this year. The country hit its intermediate target of having 40% of its citizens vaccinated by the end of June, after more than 1.12 billion doses were administered to 630 million people, per the SCMP.
This aggressive vaccine rollout, coupled with a 21-day quarantine period for foreign arrivals, has allowed China to keep its COVID cases largely under control. The country is reporting an average of 29 new infections per day, per Reuters' COVID data tracker.
Reuters further estimated that China is administering an average of 12.3 million COVID shots every day. It will likely vaccinate close to 60% of its population - which evens out to around 780 million people - within the next 23 days if inoculation rates continue at this pace.
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