China blasts ‘discriminatory’ COVID travel curbs

Chinese state-media says COVID testing requirements imposed by other nations in response to its surging wave of infections are “discriminatory”, in the clearest pushback yet against restrictions that are slowing down its re-opening.

Having kept its borders all but shut for three years, imposing a strict regime of lockdowns and relentless testing, China abruptly reversed course toward living with the virus on December 7, and a wave of infections erupted across the country.

Some places have been taken aback by the scale of China’s outbreak and expressed scepticism over Beijing’s COVID statistics. The US, South Korea, India, Italy, Japan and Taiwan have all made COVID tests mandatory for travellers from China.

“The real intention is to sabotage China’s three years of COVID-19 control efforts and attack the country’s system,” state-run tabloid Global Times said in an article late on Thursday, calling the restrictions “unfounded” and “discriminatory”.

China will stop requiring inbound travellers to go into quarantine from January 8. But it will still demand a negative PCR test result within 48 hours before departure.

Australian authorities mull China traveller changes

Italy on Thursday urged the rest of the European Union to follow its lead. France, Germany and Portugal have said they see no need for new travel restrictions, while Austria has stressed the economic benefits of Chinese tourists’ return to Europe.

Global spending by Chinese visitors was worth more than $US250 billion ($370 billion) a year before the pandemic.

The US has raised concerns about potential mutations of the virus as it sweeps through the world’s most populous country, as well as over China’s data transparency.

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention is considering sampling wastewater from international aircraft to track any emerging new variants.

China, a country of 1.4 billion people, reported one new COVID death for Thursday, same as the day before – numbers that do not match the experience of other countries after they re-opened.

China’s official death toll of 5247 since the pandemic began compares with more than one million deaths in the US. Chinese-ruled Hong Kong, a city of 7.4 million, has reported more than 11,000 deaths.

British health data company Airfinity said on Thursday about 9000 people were probably dying each day in China from COVID. Cumulative deaths in China since December 1 had likely reached 100,000, with infections totalling 18.6 million, it said.

Airfinity expected China’s COVID infections to reach their first peak on January 13, with 3.7 million cases a day.

China’s chief epidemiologist Wu Zunyou said on Thursday that a team at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention planned to assess fatalities differently.

The team will measure the difference between the number of deaths in the current wave of infections and the number of deaths expected had the epidemic never happened. By calculating the “excess mortality”, China will be able to work out what could have been potentially underestimated, Professor Wu said.

China has said it counts only deaths of COVID patients caused by pneumonia and respiratory failure as COVID-related.

The relatively low death count is also inconsistent with the surging demand reported by funeral parlours in several Chinese cities.


Topics: China
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