January 28, 2023

State media enforces coronavirus travel restrictions against discriminatory Chinese visitors

  • The United States, Japan, and others require COVID tests from Chinese visitors
  • EU experts will hold a crisis meeting next week
  • WHO, China discuss the epidemic

BEIJING/MADRID (Reuters) – Chinese state media has criticized the growing number of foreign governments mandating COVID tests on travelers from China, calling the measures “discriminatory”.

After keeping its borders completely closed for three years, imposing a strict regime of lockdowns and draconian testing, Beijing abruptly reversed course toward living with the virus on Dec. 7, and infections have spread rapidly in recent weeks.

South Korea and Spain on Friday joined a growing list of countries, including the United States, India and others, that have mandated COVID tests for travelers from China over concerns about the scale of the COVID outbreak and questioning health statistics in Beijing.

Malaysia said it will screen all international arrivals for 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 Global Times 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.

China’s National Health Commission said in a statement that top Chinese health officials held a video conference with the World Health Organization on Friday and exchanged views on the current epidemic situation.

The Director-General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said earlier today that the organization needs more information to assess the recent increase in the number of infections in China, without taking a position on the issue of travel tests.

the exams

Not all countries mandate the tests. Members of the European Union are particularly divided.

Over the past days, officials in France, Germany and Portugal have said that they see no need at the present time to impose new restrictions, while Austria has stressed the economic benefits of the return of Chinese tourists to Europe.

Global spending for Chinese visitors reached more than $250 billion a year before the pandemic.

A day after European Union health officials failed to agree on a common course of action, Spain followed in Italy’s footsteps by becoming the second of 27 member states of the bloc to require tests for travelers from China.

“Nationally, we will implement airport controls that will require all passengers arriving from China to show a negative COVID-19 test or evidence of a complete vaccination course,” said Health Secretary Carolina Darias.

EU health experts are expected to hold a crisis response meeting next week, according to an EU source.

Meanwhile, the EU’s health chief, Stella Kyriakides, has written to EU health ministers suggesting they should immediately raise the level of genetic sequencing of COVID-19 infections and monitor wastewater, including from airports, for any new variants given the virus’s surge in China. .

The agency told Reuters that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also studying wastewater sampling from international aircraft to track any emerging new variants.

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.

Meanwhile, German Ambassador to Beijing Patricia Flor said on Twitter that a vaccination campaign against the emerging coronavirus for German citizens in China had begun its trial phase.

A shipment of 11,500 doses from BioNTech (22UAy.DE) The vaccine arrived last week, enough to give one shot to every half of the 20,000 or so German citizens who reside in China.

Excess mortality

The lifting of restrictions in China, after widespread protests against them in November, has flooded hospitals and funeral homes across the country, with scenes of people dripping in jugular veins on the side of the road and lines heard outside crematoriums sparking public concern.

Health experts say China has been ill-prepared for the shift in policies that President Xi Jinping has long championed.

They say elderly people in rural areas may be particularly vulnerable due to insufficient medical resources. Next month’s Lunar New Year celebration, when hundreds of millions will travel to their home cities, will raise the stakes.

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.

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 the difference between the number of deaths in the current wave of infections and the death rate for the same period in epidemic-free years will be studied to calculate “excess deaths” and measure any estimate lower than expected. of deaths from COVID-19.

Additional reporting by John Revell in Zurich, Kirsti Knoll in Berlin, and Phil Blenkinsep in Brussels. Written by Marius Zaharia and Ingrid Melander; Editing by Gerry Doyle, Simon Cameron Moore, and Thomas Janowski

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