COVID travel restrictions against Chinese visitors are discriminatory, state media say

Chinese state media said the COVID testing requirements, imposed by multiple places around the world in response to a rising wave of infections, are “discriminatory”, in the clearest backlash yet against restrictions slowing reopening.

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

Some places have been reclaimed by the scale of the outbreak in China and have expressed skepticism about Beijing’s COVID statistics, with the United States, South Korea, India, Italy, Japan and Taiwan imposing COVID testing on travelers from China.

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

From January, China will no longer require travelers to go into quarantine. 8. However, it will require a negative PCR test result within 48 hours before departure.

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

Global spending by Chinese visitors was more than $250 billion a year before the pandemic.

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

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is considering taking sewage samples from international planes to track any emerging new variants, the agency told Reuters.

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

China’s official death toll of 5,247 since the pandemic began compares to more than 1 million deaths in the United States. Chinese-ruled Hong Kong, a city of 7.4 million, has reported more than 11,000 deaths.

UK-based health data company Airfinity said Thursday around 9,000 people are likely to die from COVID in China every day. Cumulative deaths in China since Dec. 1 are likely to have reached 100,000, with infections totaling 18.6 million, it said.

Airfinity expects China’s COVID infections to peak on Jan. 1. 13, with 3.7 million cases per day.

China’s chief epidemiologist Wu Zunyou said Thursday that a team from the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention plans to reassess deaths.

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

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

The relatively low number of deaths is also at odds with increasing demand, reported by funeral homes in several Chinese cities.

The lifting of restrictions following widespread protests against them in November has left hospitals and funeral homes across the country overwhelmed, with scenes of roadside people using IV drips and hearse lines outside crematoria raising public concern.

Health experts say China was ill-prepared by the abrupt policy reversal that President Xi Jinping has long fought for. Hospital bidding for essential medical equipment like ventilators and patient monitors was two to three times higher in December than in previous months, according to a Reuters review, suggesting hospitals across the country are scrambling to fill shortages.

© Thomson Reuters 2022.

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