- The United States, Japan, and others require COVID tests from Chinese visitors
- Chinese state media calls coronavirus travel restrictions ‘discriminatory’
- Factory activity in China may have cooled in December
BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese state media said COVID-19 testing requirements imposed around the world in response to a rising wave of infections were “discriminatory,” in the clearest response yet against restrictions slowing its reopening. .
After keeping its borders nearly closed for three years, imposing a strict regime of lockdowns and draconian testing, China suddenly reversed course toward coexistence with the virus on December 7, and a wave of infections swept across the country.
Some places were surprised by the scale of the outbreak in China and expressed skepticism about Beijing’s COVID statistics, as the United States, South Korea, India, Italy, Japan and Taiwan mandated COVID tests for travelers from China.
Malaysia said it will screen all international arrivals for fever.
“The real intention is to sabotage China’s efforts to control COVID-19 over three years and attack the country’s system,” state-run Global Times newspaper said in an article late Thursday, calling the restrictions “baseless” and “discriminatory.”
China will stop requiring inbound travelers to enter quarantine from January 8, but will still require a negative PCR test result within 48 hours before departure.
Italy on Thursday urged the rest of the European Union to follow suit, but France, Germany and Portugal said they saw no need for new restrictions, while Austria emphasized the economic benefits of Chinese tourists returning to Europe.
Global spending for Chinese visitors reached more than $250 billion a year before the pandemic.
The United States has raised concerns about potential mutations of the virus as it sweeps through the world’s most populous country, as well as about data transparency in China.
The agency told Reuters that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is studying wastewater sampling from international aircraft to track any emerging new variants.
China, with a population of 1.4 billion, reported one new coronavirus death Thursday, as it did the day before — numbers that don’t match the experience of other countries after they reopened.
The official death toll in China has reached 5,247 since the start of the epidemic, compared to more than 1 million deaths in the United States. Chinese-ruled Hong Kong, a city of 7.4 million people, has recorded more than 11,000 deaths.
UK-based health data company Airfinity said Thursday that about 9,000 people in China likely die each day from COVID. She added that the cumulative deaths in China since December 1 have likely reached 100,000, and the total number of infections has reached 18.6 million.
China’s chief epidemiologist Wu Zunyu said Thursday that a team at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention will measure the difference between the number of deaths in the current wave of infections and the number of deaths expected if the epidemic never occurs. Wu said that by calculating “excess deaths,” China will be able to identify what could have been underestimated.
China said it only counts deaths of COVID patients from pneumonia and respiratory failure as related to COVID.
The relatively low death toll also belies the increased demand reported by funeral parlors in many Chinese cities.
The lifting of the restrictions, after widespread protests against them in November, has flooded hospitals and funeral homes across the country, with scenes of people dripping in vein on the side of the road and hear lines outside crematoriums sparking public alarm.
Health experts say China has been ill-prepared for the shift in policies that President Xi Jinping has long championed.
In December, bids placed by hospitals for key equipment such as ventilators and patient monitors were two to three times higher than in previous months, according to a Reuters review suggesting hospitals were scrambling to fill shortfalls.
Experts say elderly people in rural areas may be particularly vulnerable due to insufficient medical resources. The celebration of the Lunar New Year next month, when hundreds of millions will travel to their hometowns, will raise the stakes.
The world’s second largest economy is expected to slow further in the near term as factory workers and shoppers fall ill. Some economists expect a strong rebound from a low base next year, but concerns remain that some of the damage from three years of restrictions could be long-term.
Consumers may need time to regain their confidence and willingness to spend after losing income during lockdowns, while the private sector may have used expansion funds to cover losses incurred due to restrictions.
Indebted China will also face slowing demand in key export markets, while its huge real estate sector licks its wounds after a series of defaults.
A Reuters poll showed, on Friday, that factory activity in China likely slowed in December, as rising infections began to affect production lines.
However, it appears that Chinese airlines will be the first winners in reopening.
Written by Marius Zaharia. Editing by Jerry Doyle
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