Dozens arrested over vaccine crimes

China is cracking down on vaccine-related crimes, making dozens of arrests over the production and distribution of fake coronavirus shots, price gouging and illegal inoculations.

Authorities had arrested 70 suspects by last Wednesday in 21 vaccine-related cases, Xinhua News Agency said yesterday, with many surfacing during initial phases of rollouts.

One group made a profit of about 18 million yuan (HK$21.6 million) by packaging saline solution or mineral water in 58,000 doses of alleged vaccines. Xinhua said its leader, arrested at Christmas, was named Kong.

In other cases, fake vaccines were sold at high prices, including in emergency inoculation schemes at hospitals or smuggled overseas.

The Supreme People’s Procuratorate urged regional agencies to cooperate with police to curb such activities.

China, which had given 40.5 million doses of vaccine to key groups of people by last Tuesday, has largely managed to bring the pandemic under control with strict lockdowns, testing and tracing.

Meanwhile, Australia and New Zealand received their first vaccine deliveries and will begin inoculating within days.

But Melbourne and Auckland remained locked down following the emergence of new cases.

“The eagle has landed,” Australia’s health minister, Greg Hunt, said in Canberra as the first shipment of 142,000 doses of the vaccine developed by Germany’s BioNTech and Pfizer landed.

Vaccinations start on Monday.

In New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the first batch of 60,000 BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine had arrived and would undergo safety checks before border workers start receiving vaccinations on Saturday.

“This will be the largest full-scale vaccination campaign in the country’s history,” Ardern said. “We have purchased enough vaccines to cover all New Zealanders – and to do so for free.”

New Zealand was ranked the best performing nation among almost 100 in an index by Australia’s Lowy Institute based on containment of the coronavirus. Australia was at No 10.

New Zealand has reported 2,330 confirmed and probable cases since the start of the pandemic, including 25 deaths. That compares to under 29,000 cases and 909 deaths in Australia.

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