China’s ‘two sessions’: Covid-19 vaccines, tests and limited media access

03-Mar-2021 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 5:02 AM Print This Post

Beijing has been on a vaccination drive in the lead-up to the country’s most important and carefully choreographed annual political meetings later this week.

Most of the thousands of delegates who will stream into the Great Hall of the People in the Chinese capital are expected to have been inoculated against Covid-19, while others involved in the event have also been given the jab.

Some of those attending said all members of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and deputies of the National People’s Congress had been tested for Covid-19 and offered two vaccine doses last month.

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The CPPCC political advisory body meets from Thursday, while the nation’s legislature, the NPC, begins its meeting on Friday. But despite a packed agenda including discussion of the next five-year plan for development and reform this year’s lianghui, or “two sessions”, will be shorter than usual, as it was last year, running for eight days instead of two weeks because of the pandemic. The CPPCC finishes on March 10 and the NPC on March 11.

Cai Peihui, a businessperson and NPC deputy from Taiwan, said he would arrive in Beijing on Wednesday. “Deputies have been tested for the coronavirus and taken two doses of vaccine as requested,” he said.

A CPPCC member who declined to be named said everyone taking part had been offered the vaccine and advised to have the jab, but it was not compulsory.

“Some members who are over 60 didn’t take the vaccine,” the CPPCC member said.

NPC deputies and CPPCC members from Hong Kong finished their two-dose vaccine regimen supplied by China National Pharmaceutical Group two weeks ago in Shenzhen, according to earlier media reports.

Meanwhile, drivers for the deputies and members in Beijing were all vaccinated last month, said a statement from Beiqi Taxi, which is handling two sessions transport. Staff at the hotels where participants will stay had also been inoculated, according to the government of Xicheng district, where most of the accommodation is located.

The CPPCC member said arrangements for the two sessions would be similar to last year’s, and they would only be allowed to leave their hotels to attend meetings at the Great Hall of the People.

Diplomats invited to attend open meetings said they would have to spend a night in quarantine at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse and return a negative coronavirus test before they could enter the meeting hall.

For the media, covering the meetings will be more difficult than ever journalists can usually report from the Great Hall of the People and interview deputies and members at their hotels, but are not allowed to do so this year.

“Interviews will be done mostly on the internet, by video call or in writing,” according to a statement from the general office of the NPC and CPPCC in January. It said reporters based outside mainland China, including Hong Kong, were not invited to cover the meetings.

The first event will be a CPPCC press conference held by video link on Wednesday, with reporters attending at a media centre after they clear an early-morning coronavirus test. Press conferences were also held online last year, including by Premier Li Keqiang on the closing day.


Category: China

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