Moscow/Beijing, Jan 3 (FN Agency) The European Union has offered free COVID-19 vaccines to China to help the country contain the rapid spread of the disease as Beijing prepares to end strict lockdown measures and open its borders. According to the newspaper, the offer was made in recent days ahead of a meeting of EU health ministers on Tuesday as part of the European Commission’s response to a possible new wave of COVID-19 cases worldwide after China decided to end its “zero-tolerance policy” toward the virus. “[EU Health] Commissioner [Stella] Kyriakides has reached out to her Chinese counterparts to offer solidarity and support, including public health expertise as well as through variant-adapted EU vaccine donations,” an EU official was quoted as saying. The Chinese government is yet to respond to the offer made by the EU, the official added.
In November, China saw a record increase in local COVID-19 outbreaks. Due to the deterioration of the epidemiological situation, the authorities introduced partial lockdowns in some areas while also forcing their residents to undergo PCR testing on a daily basis. In December, China announced that it was abandoning its zero-tolerance policy for COVID-19 and preparing to reopen its borders in January. The end of nearly three years of strict measures in a country of 1.4 billion people is feared to potentially lead to a massive spread of the disease across the globe.So far, the main two COVID-19 vaccines used in China are domestically-produced Sinovac and Sinopharm, both inactivated. There are no mRNA vaccines available in China for mass use, which could be the reason for China’s quite poor performance in tackling the pandemic, according to Western experts. In late December, the World Health Organization said that current vaccination coverage in China was insufficient and more active measures were necessary to curb the spread of the virus.