- U.S., Japan and others require COVID testing for Chinese tourists
- Chinese state media calls COVID travel restrictions ‘discriminatory’
- China’s factory activity likely to cool in December survey
BEIJING, Dec 30 (Reuters) – Chinese state media said the COVID-19 testing requirements imposed around the world in response to surging waves of infections were “discriminatory”, a move so far to slow its progress. The clearest push back against restrictions on the speed of reopening.
After nearly closing its borders for three years, imposing a strict lockdown regime and relentless testing, China abruptly reversed course on Dec. 12 in co-existing with the virus. On the 7th, a wave of infections broke out across the country.
Alarmed by the scale of China’s outbreak and doubted by Beijing’s COVID statistics in some places, the United States, South Korea, India, Italy, Japan and Taiwan have tested travelers from China for COVID.
Malaysia said it would screen all international arrivals for fever.
“The real intention is to undermine China’s three-year COVID-19 control efforts and attack the country’s system,” the state-run tabloid Global Times said in an article late Thursday, calling the restrictions “absolutely irrelevant.” based” and “discriminatory”.
China will stop requiring incoming travelers to quarantine from January 1. 8. However, it is still required that the PCR test result be negative 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 highlighted the economic benefits of returning Chinese tourists to Europe.
Before the pandemic, Chinese tourists spent more than $250 billion a year globally.
The United States has raised concerns about the potential mutation of the virus and China’s data transparency as it sweeps through the world’s most populous country.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is considering sampling wastewater from international aircraft to track any emerging new variants, the agency told Reuters.
China, a country of 1.4 billion people, reported one new COVID death on Thursday, the same as the previous day — a figure that doesn’t match what other countries have experienced as they reopen.
China’s official death toll since the start of the pandemic stands at 5,247, while the U.S. death toll exceeds 1 million. Chinese-ruled Hong Kong, home to 7.4 million people, has reported more than 11,000 deaths.
Around 9,000 people may die from COVID-19 every day in China, U.K.-based health data company Airfinity said on Thursday. The cumulative death toll in China since December 1 may have reached 100,000, with infections totaling 18.6 million, it said.
high mortality rate
Wu Zunyou, China’s top epidemiologist, said on Thursday that a team from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention will measure the difference between the death toll in the current wave of infections and the expected death toll without the outbreak. Wu said that by calculating the “excess death rate,” China would be able to calculate the death rate that may be underestimated.
China said it only counted COVID-related deaths of COVID patients from pneumonia and respiratory failure.
The relatively low death toll is also at odds with the surge in demand reported by funeral homes in several Chinese cities.
The lifting of restrictions has overwhelmed hospitals and funeral homes across the country after widespread protests in November, with public concerns fueled by scenes of people administering intravenous drips and lines of hearses outside crematoria.
Health experts say China is ill-prepared for the policy U-turn long advocated by President Xi Jinping.
Hospital bids for critical equipment such as ventilators and patient monitors were two to three times higher in December than in previous months, according to a Reuters review, suggesting hospitals are scrambling to address shortages.
Older people in rural areas may be particularly vulnerable due to inadequate medical resources, experts say. The risk is heightened by the return of hundreds of millions of people to their hometowns for the Lunar New Year next month.
The world’s second-largest economy is expected to slow further in the near term as factory workers and shoppers fall ill. Some economists predict a strong rebound next year from a low base, but concerns remain that some of the damage from the three-year restrictions could be long-lasting.
Consumers may need time to regain confidence and willingness to spend after losing income during the lockdown, while the private sector may have used its expansion funds to cover losses due to restrictions.
Indebted China will also face slowing demand in its main export market, while its massive real estate sector is licking its wounds after a series of defaults.
Factory activity in China is likely to cool in December as rising infections start to affect production lines, a Reuters survey showed on Friday.
However, Chinese airlines appear set to be early winners in reopening.
Written by Marius Zaharia. Edited by Gerry Doyle
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