Asian differences reflect differences in Covid vaccine quality


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Greetings from Singapore, where it is finally possible to begin to imagine the situation of “coexistence with Covid” and coexistence with influenza. Unfortunately, people don’t have to fly far to realize how far most of East Asia is from this improved state, so it is extremely unlikely that pre-pandemic travel regulations will be restored this year.

At the end of last month, two very different news highlights this divergence, and this week’s Asia briefing from Trade Secrets will discuss this.

On June 24, the Minister of Trade, Finance and Health of Singapore issued a Joint column They said in it that although Covid-19 “may never disappear,” it will soon be possible to “live normally among us.”

Two days later, the Chinese health department Announced plan Establish a huge isolation center in the southern city of Guangzhou to accommodate international immigrants-admitting that they believe that China has no such future in the short term, and may at least effectively isolate China from the rest of the world in this way in the spring of 2022.

It is frustrating that two great commercial centers, such as Singapore and Guangzhou, which are only four hours apart, may not be able to see normal passenger traffic begin to recover within a year or even longer.

Concession watersHowever, this suggests that from a commodity trade perspective, this may not be important. Regional trade flows remain strong. Many people used to think that commuting to get off work five days a week was important—until Covid told them that this was not the case. It seems that the same is true for business travel before the pandemic.

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Singapore is preparing for lift-off, while China is still grounded

Like most East Asian countries that have taken Covid seriously from the beginning, public morale in Singapore rises and falls with the number of “community” cases, not “import” cases brought by international travelers. The more community cases, the more likely the government will restrict public activities and—in the worst case for most parents—close schools.

But in their recent article published in The Straits Times, the three Singaporean ministers stated that the government will soon be able to completely eliminate such statistics, and only monitor Covid-related data, as many countries have done for influenza. Number of hospitalizations and deaths. They pointed out that during the severe flu season in the United States from 2017-18, 13 to 14 people were hospitalized every day, with 1 death per 2 million people.

The goal is to make Covid equally harmless, even if it is inevitably endemic. At that time, Dale Fisher, an infectious disease expert at the National University of Singapore Hospital, said that “the number of cases per day is irrelevant.” He added that it was like announcing that “a thousand people have been diagnosed with the common cold today.”

The key to achieving this goal relatively quickly is the high use of highly effective vaccines, such as the BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna vaccines most commonly used in Singapore.

By early August, more than 60% of Singapore’s 5.7 million population should have been fully vaccinated. This will make Israel and some states in the United States (such as Massachusetts) now located in the city state. Both Israel and Massachusetts vaccinated 60% of citizens with the best vaccines. In Israel, only 3 people are hospitalized with new coronary pneumonia every day, and 1 in 1 million people vaccinated die.

Like Singapore, China’s vaccination campaign is also accelerating, with about 1.3 billion doses of vaccines being vaccinated so far.The problem is Clinical trials in various developing countries, Its home-grown vaccine is only 51% to 67% effective in preventing symptomatic infections. Anecdotal evidence also suggests that they are less effective against the Delta variant first discovered in India.

“Singapore’s strategy may not work in countries that rely on Chinese vaccines,” said Ryan Ho, a researcher at the East Asian Institute of Singapore. “China has such an impressive [containment] The result is that the central government has taken decisive and severe measures. “

In fact, the Singapore government – as well as the city’s Catholic Church – has stated that they will exempt people vaccinated with Pfizer and Hyundai from having to be tested for the new coronavirus before attending large gatherings, but not those who have been vaccinated in China. people.

Unlike the Singaporean government and church officials, the Beijing health authorities of course Can’t speak so freely Regarding the relative underperformance of China’s vaccines. This is why Chinese epidemiologist Zhong Nanshan’s comments on the new quarantine facility in Guangzhou on June 24 are so instructive.

Zhong said that Chinese officials worry that the hotels currently used to isolate returning nationals and residents cannot contain the Delta variant. Therefore, the new Guangzhou facility needs the only scale in China. Zhong said that the facility will cover more than 250,000 square meters (or 46 football fields) and handle almost all international travelers entering China.

If China’s vaccine is as effective as Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines, then it can also foresee the near-term scenario outlined by Singapore’s ministers. On the contrary, it is moving in the opposite direction to ensure that the flow of passengers to China will not resume soon. From Indonesia to the Philippines, the same is true for most other Southeast Asian countries, which also rely on Chinese vaccines.

Singapore’s ministers stated that in the near future “we will be able to travel again-at least to countries that have also controlled the virus and made it a local norm”. China has achieved the former, but the latter is still out of reach. Other Southeast Asian countries have not achieved it. Therefore, when Singaporeans finally start traveling in groups, they are more likely to fly over regional neighboring countries to distant tourist destinations such as Jerusalem and Boston.

Concession waters

Does the widening gap in case rates among Asian countries have an impact on trade flows? not yet. The chart below shows that most economies in the region have a strong start to 2021.

A line chart showing the 12-month rolling total (billion US dollars) of exports from other Asian countries

Will this boom last even in countries where vaccines are less effective? It is expected that as cases in parts of the region increase, we will begin to see supply chain disruptions. Shenzhen outbreak Since May, it has caused serious delays at the port. The case also shut down some facilities in Taiwan involved in semiconductor manufacturing. However, compared with other parts of the world, the number is still very low, and it remains to be seen whether the impact of the disruption will appear at the macro level. Claire Jones

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