DAILY DOSE: Stress fractures in China’s Zero-Covid strategy emerge; Zombie viruses discovered, revived.


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Could it be? Is China inching towards ditching its Zero-Covid strategy? Who knows anything. Per the Associated Press,

More Chinese cities eased anti-virus restrictions and police patrolled their streets Thursday as the government tried to defuse public anger over some of the world’s most stringent COVID measures and head off more protests.

Following weekend demonstrations at which some crowds made the politically explosive demand that leader Xi Jinping resign, the streets of major cities have been quiet in the face of a crackdown that has been largely out of sight.

Guangzhou in the south, Shijiazhuang in the north, Chengdu in the southwest and other major cities announced they were easing testing requirements and controls on movement. In some areas, markets and bus service reopened. A newspaper reported Beijing, the capital, has begun allowing some people with the virus to isolate at home, avoiding crowded quarantine centers that have prompted complaints. The government didn’t immediately respond to a request for confirmation.

But many of the rules that brought people into the streets of Shanghai, Beijing and at least six other cities remain in force. The death of former leader Jiang Zemin this week could provide another opportunity for crowds to gather and potentially protest.

The passing of significant figures can often provide the impetus for protests and demand for change. Keep your eyes on China. Things might get interesting. https://bit.ly/3XP1780

One of the valid concerns among Chinese officials has been the dangers of opening up while vaccination rates among elderly remained low and immunity from prior vaccinations is waning. Nature takes a look at whether disaster can be averted.

China is showing signs of easing its strict zero-COVID policy after rare displays of dissent across the country. In recent weeks, people have protested against the government’s policy of quashing outbreaks through strict lockdowns, mass testing, quarantining and travel restrictions — which comes at an increasing economic cost. In the past few days, several cities have loosened restrictions, and China’s vice-premier, Sun Chunlan, signalled a more permissive approach to containing the virus, according to news reports. But ending zero COVID would bring challenges. Thanks to the policy, only a small proportion of people in China have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Meanwhile, immunity from vaccines is likely to have waned, and boosters have been a harder sell. If the country ends its strict zero-COVID policy, how can it avoid a wave of deaths and severe disease?

Nobody wants to see people dying or suffering. Let’s hope the people of China can make the transition with minimal casualties. https://bit.ly/3VkbPl4

While we’re on the topic of China… A stunning discovery has been made there that has huge potential implications for our understanding of how humans evolved. Per Nature,

Researchers are heralding the discovery of an ancient human skull in central China as an important find. As excavation of the remarkably intact fossil continues, archaeologists and palaeoanthropologists anticipate that the skull could give a fuller picture of the diverse family tree of archaic humans living throughout Eurasia in prehistoric times.

The skull was discovered on 18 May at an excavation site 20 kilometres west of Yunyang — formerly known as Yunxian — in central China’s Hubei province. It lies 35 metres from where two skulls — dubbed the Yunxian Man skulls — were unearthed in 1989 and 19901, and probably belongs to the same species of ancient people, say researchers.

“It’s a wonderful discovery,” says palaeoanthropologist Amélie Vialet at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, who has worked on the first two skulls, commonly referred to as Yunxian 1 and 2. Unlike those earlier discoveries, which were crushed and distorted after millennia underground, the third skull, Yunxian 3, seems to be in good condition.

It continues to boggle the mind that any fossils discovered during present day can last as long as they do. https://bit.ly/3AYhDJ2

If this isn’t a storyline out of a Hollywood movie, researchers discovered a batch of ancient viruses in a patch of ice from Siberia. They subsequently thawed them out and “revived” them. Per Fortune,

The thawing of ancient permafrost due to climate change may pose a new threat to humans, according to researchers who revived nearly two dozen viruses – including one frozen under a lake more than 48,500 years ago. 

European researchers examined ancient samples collected from permafrost in the Siberia region of Russia. They revived and characterized 13 new pathogens, what they termed “zombie viruses,” and found that they remained infectious despite spending many millennia trapped in the frozen ground.

Scientists have long warned that the thawing of permafrost due to atmospheric warming will worsen climate change by freeing previously trapped greenhouse gases like methane. But its effect on dormant pathogens is less well understood.

We’ve seen this movie before and know how it ends. It’s not pretty. https://bit.ly/3OTqsJV

Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.

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