The Chinese government ordered the northwestern city of Lanzhou locked down on Tuesday as officials carried out widespread testing to quash a small Covid-19 outbreak.
Lanzhou, a city of about four million people, reported six new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, and a total of 39 over the past week. China, where the coronavirus first emerged in late 2019, has been battling a recent flare-up of new cases largely in the northwest of the country that were spread by domestic travel.
The country enforces a strict “zero Covid” policy, carrying out widespread lockdowns and testing to eliminate even small-scale outbreaks.
By Monday evening, medical workers had tested nearly 12 million people in Gansu Province, including more than 2.8 million in Lanzhou, its capital. The testing in Lanzhou continued on Tuesday.
Residents were told to stay home and avoid all unnecessary outings.
“The province will continue to use big data and house-by-house investigations to strengthen the management and control of key populations and key areas,” Zhang Hao, a spokesman for the provincial health commission, told a news conference. “Local communities will be utilized to strictly control the flow of people.”
Nationwide, China announced 29 new domestic coronavirus cases on Tuesday. Most of those were concentrated in the northwest, including 15 in Alxa League, an area of Inner Mongolia. Beijing, the capital, reported three new cases on Tuesday.
This week China has also expanded its extensive vaccination program by extending eligibility to children as young as 3.
The effort to vaccinate younger children began Monday, according to documents issued by several provincial governments, including Hunan, Hubei and Hainan. The goal is to drive the vaccination rate above the current 76 percent.
The government approved emergency use of vaccines produced by Sinovac and Sinopharm for children aged 3 to 17 in June, but the mass inoculation for children was limited to those aged 11 to 17.
An outbreak in Fujian last month ignited public discussion of protecting younger children, as many of those infected were kindergarten and primary school students.
Facing pressure for keeping its Covid vaccine out of reach of poorer countries, Moderna said on Tuesday that it had agreed to sell up to 110 million shots to African Union member nations.
The company said it would deliver 15 million of the shots by the end of this year and 35 million more by the end of March, offering a modest supply boost for a continent with severe vaccine shortages and some of the world’s lowest vaccination rates. Fewer than 6 percent of Africans are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, and fewer than a third of African nations had fully vaccinated 10 percent of their populations by the start of this month.
The New York Times reported this month that Moderna’s shots have gone almost entirely to wealthier countries. Moderna has shipped a larger share of its doses to high-income countries than any other vaccine manufacturer, according to recent data from the data firm Airfinity.
The company also said on Tuesday it was “working on plans” to bottle doses of its Covid vaccine somewhere on the African continent as soon as 2023, in addition to its plans announced this month to open a factory in Africa at an unspecified date.
Moderna has been sharply criticized for not sharing its vaccine recipe or transferring its technology to manufacturers in poorer countries that could make its shots for local markets.
The company has repeatedly said that it is unable to supply more doses quickly to countries in need because it has limited manufacturing capacity and because all of its production this year had been locked up through existing orders from governments like the United States and the European Union.
With the new deal with Moderna, the African Union now has two direct vaccine supply deals for its member countries. The African Union has ordered 220 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot vaccine, with the option to order 180 million more. Deliveries from that order began in August.
Moderna and the African Union were in talks this past spring about a potential supply deal, but those talks fell apart because Moderna could not offer the doses until next year, according to two African Union officials. The negotiations restarted this month.
Moderna’s chief executive, Stéphane Bancel, said in a news release that the Biden administration had helped broker the deal.
Moderna has also agreed to sell more than 210 million doses, at an average purchase price of just under $10, to Covax, the United Nations-backed program to vaccinate the world’s poor. The company has not yet supplied any of those shots, a Covax spokesman said on Tuesday.
The tens of millions of Moderna doses that have made it to low- and lower-middle-income countries have been almost exclusively through donations from the United States.
A shortfall in expected deliveries from Covax this year has left African countries scrambling to come up with alternative plans to vaccinate their populations. Countries that could afford it have struck bilateral deals for vaccines.
Hong Kong, already home to the world’s longest pandemic quarantine, plans to further tighten its rules for overseas arrivals, a move that could further dent the city’s status as a global financial hub.
Hong Kong now requires people arriving from “high-risk” countries — which include the United States and much of Europe — to spend 21 days in hotel quarantine. Almost all other overseas arrivals must spend 14 days. Only people arriving from mainland China can skip quarantine.
City officials had carved out limited exemptions, such as for high-ranking executives of financial corporations or insurance companies and celebrities amid concerns that the strict quarantine regime would exacerbate an exodus of foreign businesses. But Carrie Lam, the city’s chief executive, said on Tuesday that most of those exemptions would end soon, as part of continuing attempts to allow Hong Kongers to travel to mainland China without quarantining.
“We have to ensure that our anti-Covid-19 practices are more in line with the mainland practices,” Mrs. Lam said, “so that the mainland authorities will have a level of confidence to enable Hong Kong people to go into the mainland.” China is the only major country still aiming for complete eradication of the virus.
Exemptions will remain in place for people whose work involves Hong Kong’s daily transportation and shipping needs, such as cross-boundary truck drivers. Mrs. Lam did not specify which other exemptions might remain.
Hong Kong has recorded just two locally transmitted cases in the past five months, but Mrs. Lam said the city had still not met Beijing’s standards.
She acknowledged the unhappiness of many foreigners and others involved in the financial sector, calling the situation a “dilemma.” But she has made clear that, forced to choose between the rest of the world and mainland China, she would prioritize the mainland.
“Hong Kong’s primary advantage lies in being the gateway to the mainland,” she said. “If businesses established in Hong Kong could not go into the mainland, I think it will significantly reduce the attraction of Hong Kong as an international business hub.”
Still, there are signs that the attraction has dimmed considerably. On Monday, the Asia Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, Hong Kong’s top bank lobbying group, publicly urged the government to ease quarantine rules, calling the city’s global status “increasingly at risk.” Nearly half of its members have considered moving employees and operations abroad, the group said.
A separate quota for 6,000 Hong Kong residents to travel, quarantine-free, from the mainland each day does not appear to be affected.
The largest police union in New York City asked a judge on Monday to allow unvaccinated police officers to continue working, despite the city’s recently imposed vaccine mandate, which requires all municipal workers to have received at least one coronavirus vaccine dose by Nov. 1.
In a lawsuit filed in Staten Island, which is home to many police officers and has a vaccination rate that lags behind the citywide average, the Police Benevolent Association of New York said it opposed a vaccine mandate for police officers that does not allow the option of being tested weekly instead of being vaccinated.
The lawsuit also claimed that the mandate — which the mayor announced last week — does not contain sufficient protections for officers who might object to the vaccines because of religious beliefs. Mayor Bill de Blasio has said that the city will be “offering religious accommodation,” but that “valid religious exemptions” are rare.
While most lawsuits trying to stop government vaccine mandates in New York and elsewhere have failed to gain traction, some federal judges have appeared more sympathetic to suits that narrowly attack vaccine mandates for not accommodating religious beliefs.
Police unions across the country, from Chicago to Washington State, are urging members to resist Covid vaccine requirements — despite Covid being by far the most common cause of officer duty-related deaths this year and last, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.
The New York police union’s lawsuit argues that the city did not give officers enough time to seek religious exemptions. Officers seeking exemptions are required to apply by Wednesday — one week after the mandate was announced — to avoid being placed on leave without pay.
As of last week, about 70 percent of employees of the New York Police Department had received at least one shot of a coronavirus vaccine. The P.B.A., which represents rank-and-file officers, has been generally supportive of an earlier policy that had allowed unvaccinated officers to test weekly for the virus. The lawsuit claims that “test-or-vax” rule was effective in protecting public safety.
The lawsuit was filed on a day when a large crowd of people — including many fire, police, and sanitation workers — marched in protest against the vaccine mandate. Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge to City Hall, some demonstrators carried large American flags and loudly chanted, “We Will Not Comply.”