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DAILY DOSE: Zero-Covid over, Chinese tourists ready to hit the road; For cryptominers in Asia, the dream is over.


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China’s whipsaw transition from Zero-Covid to full reopening has hinged on one thing – vaccinating the elderly who are most at risk of dying from infection. Unfortunately, it’s a clear case of easier said than done. Many refuse to be vaccinated. Per the Associated Press,

Chinese authorities are going door to door and paying people older than 60 to get vaccinated against COVID-19. But even as cases surge, 64-year-old Li Liansheng said his friends are alarmed by stories of fevers, blood clots and other side effects.

“When people hear about such incidents, they may not be willing to take the vaccines,” said Li, who had been vaccinated before he caught COVID-19. A few days after his 10-day bout with the virus, Li is nursing a sore throat and cough. He said it was like a “normal cold” with a mild fever.

China has joined other countries in treating cases instead of trying to stamp out virus transmission by dropping or easing rules on testing, quarantines and movement as it tries to reverse an economic slump. But the shift has flooded hospitals with feverish, wheezing patients.

The National Health Commission announced a campaign Nov. 29 to raise the vaccination rate among older Chinese, which health experts say is crucial to avoiding a health care crisis. It’s also the biggest hurdle before the ruling Communist Party can lift the last of the world’s most stringent antivirus restrictions.

Beijing had three years to ensure the elderly were adequately vaccinated in appropriate numbers. The current crisis is an own goal after squandering the chance to protect them. https://bit.ly/3PS05o9

Reopening in China has brought with it a surge in demand for domestic and international travel. This is to be expected. Per Sixth Tone,

China’s decision to remove stringent border control restrictions has been welcomed by many, prompting a surge in pent-up demand from Chinese tourists who haven’t been able to leave the country for three years.

Searches for overseas destinations on major travel sites including Trip.com and Fliggy rocketed to an all-time high since 2019 soon after the announcement ending China’s last remaining “zero-COVID” policies was made, according to the two companies. On Monday evening, the country’s top health authority said inbound travelers to the Chinese mainland will no longer need to quarantine or apply for pre-arrival clearance, but would still need a PCR test before boarding, starting Jan. 8.

Data from Trip.com Group showed the most popular searches for outbound flights during the upcoming Lunar New Year holidays next month included Macao, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, and South Korea. Package tours for the weeklong holiday from Jan. 21-27 rose more than sixfold on the travel site.

The upcoming Lunar New Year will only add to the demand. https://bit.ly/3PV0qGs

The recently held COP 15 resulted in fresh new pledges to protect the world’s biodiversity. A commentator in The Wire India suggests that countries may not end up living up to their end of the bargain.  

At the COP, India called for the Framework to be based on equity, by factoring in the historical greenhouse gas emissions of developed countries. India negotiated for a separate fund for developing countries to implement the Framework and allied action, as well as the need to focus conservation and climate change mitigation measures on ecosystem-based approaches.

However, India has much work to do to be able to walk the talk and implement the Global Biodiversity Framework in its entirety. These include developing better legal mechanisms to ensure the sustainable utilisation of biological resources, said experts. Moreover, the Framework is not legally binding; so if the clauses in the deal do not match national regulations, accountability will be a challenge, they added.

COP15, held at Montreal in Canada between December 7 and 19, witnessed world leaders and representatives of 188 countries discussing and coming to an agreement on several crucial aspects of biodiversity conservation including sustainable resource use. They listed 23 targets to achieve by 2030 — from halving food waste to phasing out or reforming subsidies that harm biodiversity by at least $500 billion per year, and reducing the rates of introduction and establishment of alien invasive species by at least 50%.

We agree that its a whole lotta hot air. https://bit.ly/3YSJzbC

Cryptomining has gone from an idler’s dream to an empty promise in a hot second. In no place is this more evident than in Asia. According to a report in The Intercept,

... in the year since bitcoin’s price touched an all-time high of $68,789, the global obsession with crypto has soured. In May, the Luna coin unraveled, setting off a chain reaction that destabilized exchanges and collapsed memecoins; from there, regulations began to tighten, and the year culminated with the implosion of once-trusted exchange FTX.

Rest of World interviewed tens of traders, miners, and investors in Asia, from Almaty to Singapore, who, a year ago, had been elated to be part of the crypto prosperity boom. Speaking to Rest of World again in December, they now express regret and confusion — though there are glimmers of optimism from those who still have a dream to trade. 

In late 2021, crypto miners ruled Kazakhstan’s outer regions. “Little hamsters,” as smallholders are called in the country, tethered up to power supply in their backyards. Big players, whose factories were lined with cryptocurrency-generating CPUs, pumped smoke across uninterrupted, icy horizons.

These days, miners have been hit by the twin blows of a dysfunctional power grid and plunging crypto prices. In January, the Kazakhstan government cut miners from local power because of widespread shortages, later rationing them on expensive, imported power from Russia. 

“Almost every legal miner has curtailed their operations,” Din-mukhammed Matkenov, the founder of large-scale miner BTC KZ, told Rest of World. “Russia doesn’t provide stable supplies of power all the time.” 

In February, BTC KZ had been eyeing a move into Russia or Latin America. It never happened. Instead, sections of the huge operation are now being disassembled by workers to be relocated or sold off for parts. BTC KZ is not alone; local newspapers have reported stories of other miners doing the same.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s too early for crypto and the appropriate technology has yet to be developed. https://bit.ly/3Gi1SiZ

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

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