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What We’re Watching: Beijing vax mandate, DRC-Rwanda tensions

What We’re Watching: Beijing vax mandate, DRC-Rwanda tensions

An elderly woman walks past a poster encouraging seniors to get vaccinated against COVID in Beijing.

REUTERS/Tingshu Wang

Beijing gets China's first COVID vax mandate

Somewhat late to the party compared to many parts of the world, China introduced on Wednesday its first COVID vaccine mandate in Beijing. Starting next week, residents of the capital will need to show proof of vax to enter most public spaces as authorities scramble to contain a new outbreak of a more infectious omicron subvariant. Oddly enough for an authoritarian state, China shunned mandates early in the pandemic because most people agreed to get vaxxed on their own, which helped keep the virus under control until late 2021. While nearly 90% of the population is fully vaccinated, inoculation rates among the elderly — those most vulnerable to becoming seriously ill or dying from COVID — are lower because many older Chinese adults are wary of getting jabs. What's more, China's vaccines are not as effective as Western mRNA jabs against new variants, so perhaps the goal of Beijing's mandate is to keep the unvaccinated elderly at home without implementing a citywide lockdown like in Shanghai. How will this affect Xi Jinping's zero-COVID policy? If major outbreaks are reported, expect other big Chinese cities to follow Beijing's lead.

DRC & Rwanda go head to head

This week, the Democratic Republic of the Congo President Félix Tshisekedi and his Rwandan counterpart, Paul Kagame, are meeting to discuss rising tensions along their shared border. In the eastern DRC, which borders both Rwanda and the Uganda, the M23 — a DRC rebel group claiming to defend DRC ethnic tutsis that wreaked havoc in the region in 2012 — has gained ground. Things heated up when the DRC recently blamed Rwanda for supporting the M23, which Rwanda denies. But conflict has been a constant in the region since the Rwandan genocide of 1994. Since then, the area has seen two wars, violence by more than 100 militant groups, peacekeeping missions, and humanitarian crises. Still, the eastern DRC remains one of the richest areas in the world for minerals used in technology, so it’s an area ripe for investment — and targeting. In April, the DRC tied itself to the economic interests of other countries in the region by joining the East African Community, which includes both Rwanda and Uganda. We'll keep an eye on how this messy situation plays out as the DRC and Rwandan leaders talk through their issues.


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