- US, Japan and others require COVID tests from Chinese visitors
- Chinese state media calls COVID travel restrictions ‘discriminatory’
- Chinese factory activity likely slowed in December – poll
BEIJING, Dec 30 (Reuters) – Chinese state media said COVID-19 testing requirements imposed around the world in response to a growing wave of infections were “discriminatory”, in the clearest denial of what day against the restrictions that slow its reopening.
After keeping its borders all but closed for three years, imposing a strict lockdown regime and relentless testing, China abruptly reversed the trend of living with the virus on December 7, and a wave of infections erupted across the country. .
Some places were taken aback by the scale of the outbreak in China and expressed skepticism about COVID statistics from Beijing, the United States, South Korea, India, Italy, Japan and Taiwan towering COVID tests to travelers from China.
Malaysia said it would screen all international arrivals for the fever.
“The real intention is to sabotage China’s three-year effort to control COVID-19 and attack the country’s system,” the state-run tabloid Global Times said in an article Thursday, calling the restrictions a “unfounded” and “discriminatory”.
China will stop requiring incoming travelers to self-quarantine from January 8. But she 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 its example, but France, Germany and Portugal said they saw no need for further restrictions, while Austria highlighted the economic benefits of returning Chinese tourists to Europe.
Global spending by Chinese visitors was worth more than $250 billion a year before the pandemic.
The United States has raised concerns about the virus’ potential mutations as it sweeps through the world’s most populous country, as well as about data transparency in China.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plans to sample sewage from international planes to track any new emerging variants, the agency told Reuters.
China, a country of 1.4 billion people, reported one new death from COVID on Thursday, like the previous day – figures that do not match the experience of other countries after they reopen.
China’s official death toll of 5,247 since the start of the pandemic compares to more than one million deaths in the United States. Chinese-ruled Hong Kong, a city of 7.4 million people, has reported more than 11,000 deaths.
British health data firm Airfinity said on Thursday that around 9,000 people in China were likely dying from COVID every day. China’s cumulative death toll since Dec. 1 likely reached 100,000, with infections totaling 18.6 million, he said.
China’s chief epidemiologist Wu Zunyou said on Thursday that a team from 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 outbreak had never happened. By calculating “excess mortality,” China will be able to determine what might have been potentially underestimated, Wu said.
China said it only counts COVID patient deaths caused by pneumonia and respiratory failure as COVID-related.
The relatively low death toll is also inconsistent with the growing demand reported by funeral homes in several Chinese cities.
The lifting of restrictions, after widespread protests against them in November, overwhelmed hospitals and funeral homes across the country, with scenes of people on IV drips at the roadside and lines of hearses outside crematoria fueling public concern.
Health experts say China has been caught off guard by the reversal of policies long championed by President Xi Jinping.
In December, hospital tenders for key equipment such as ventilators and patient monitors were two to three times higher than in previous months, a Reuters study found, suggesting hospitals were scrambling to fill shortages.
Experts say older people in rural areas may be particularly vulnerable due to insufficient medical resources. Next month’s Lunar New Year festival, when hundreds of millions travel to their hometowns, will add to the risk.
The world’s second-largest economy is set to slow further in the near term as workers and shoppers fall ill. Some economists are predicting 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 appetite to spend after losing income during the shutdowns, while the private sector may have used its expansion funds to cover losses incurred due to the restrictions.
Heavily indebted China will also face a slowdown in demand in its main export markets, while its huge real estate sector licks its wounds after a series of defaults.
Chinese factory activity most likely cooled in December as rising infections began to affect production lines, a Reuters poll showed on Friday.
Chinese airlines, however, appear to be early winners from the reopening.
Written by Marius Zaharia. Editing by Gerry Doyle
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