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New Covid outbreak hits China

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Shanghai: China’s government has urged citizens to stock up on daily necessities and for authorities to take steps to ensure adequate food supplies as the country adopts increasingly tight measures to contain its latest Covid outbreak. A notice posted on the website of the Ministry of Commerce late on Tuesday urged “families to store a certain amount of daily necessities as needed to meet daily life and emergencies”.

The directive made no mention of a food shortage or of whether the instructions were motivated by fears that Covid measures could disrupt supply chains or leave locked-down citizens in need of food.

But China, which has kept its infection numbers relatively low through a Covid-zero strategy of border closures, targeted lockdowns and long quarantine periods, is increasingly adopting tough measures to contain the latest outbreak, especially ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics beginning on February 4.

The Commerce Ministry notice also told authorities to take measures to facilitate agricultural production, keep supply chains smooth, ensure that regional food reserves were adequate and maintain stable prices.

Besides Covid concerns, China has been hit hard over the past two years by heavy summer flooding that impacted agricultural output and drove up prices, raising concerns that the problem could worsen as climate change brings increasingly extreme weather.

The government last year launched a national campaign to curb food waste. Average wholesale prices of 28 kinds of vegetables in October were up 16 percent from the previous month, state media reported on Monday, citing government numbers. China has generally kept daily new case counts in the low double digits for much of the pandemic.

But daily cases rose to as high as 143 in August amid a Delta outbreak, eased off for several weeks, but have begun climbing again amid what the government called a “serious” new outbreak, with cases popping up in a dozen provinces.

Meanwhile, Iran’s foreign minister has tested positive for Covid, local media reported, at a key moment in diplomatic efforts to revive a nuclear agreement with major powers. Hossein Amir-Abdollahian “tested positive today for coronavirus,” the Tasnim news agency reported late on Monday.

In a related development, researchers from Australia’s Garvan Institute of Medical Research revealed a new study on Tuesday, presenting a strategy for adapting Covid-19 vaccines to evolving strains of the virus.

The study, published in the Immunity journal, assessed the antibodies that may be potentially generated by future vaccines, and their effectiveness at targeting future virus strains.

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