COVID travel restrictions on Chinese visitors ‘discriminatory’ – state media

After three years of keeping its borders virtually closed and imposing a strict regime of lockdowns and relentless testing, China suddenly took a different path to living with the virus on December 7, unleashing a flurry of infections across the country.

Some places are surprised by the size of China’s outbreak and skeptical of Beijing’s COVID statistics. The United States, South Korea, India, Italy, Japan and Taiwan have mandated COVID testing for travelers from China.

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

China will no longer require incoming travelers to quarantine from January 8. But it will still require a negative PCR test within 48 hours of departure.

Italy on Thursday called on the rest of the EU to follow suit, but France, Germany and Portugal have said they see no need for new travel restrictions, while Austria has dismissed the economic benefits of returning Chinese tourists to Europe underlining.

Before the pandemic, global spending by Chinese visitors exceeded $250 billion annually.

The United States has expressed concern about possible mutations of the virus in the world’s most populous country and the transparency of Chinese data.

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

China, a country of 1.4 billion, reported one new COVID death for Thursday, the same as the day before — numbers that don’t match the experience of other countries, after they reopened.

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

British health information agency Airfinity said Thursday that 9,000 people a day are likely to die from COVID in China. China’s cumulative deaths since Dec. 1 likely topped 100,000, with a total of 18.6 million infections, the company said.

Airfinity expects China’s COVID infections to reach their first peak on January 13, with 3.7 million cases per day.

EXTRAORDINARY DEATH

China’s chief epidemiologist Wu Zunyou said Thursday that a team from China’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plans to estimate the number of deaths differently.

The team will measure the difference between the number of deaths in the current wave of infections and the number of deaths that would have been expected if the epidemic had never happened. By calculating the “excess mortality,” China can check what may have been underestimated, Wu said.

China has said it only counts COVID patient deaths caused by pneumonia and breathing problems as COVID-related.

The relatively low death toll is also at odds with rising demand reported by funeral homes in several Chinese cities.

The lifting of restrictions, following widespread protests in November, has engulfed hospitals and funeral homes across the country, with scenes of people on roadside IVs and lines of crematorium hearses raising concerns among the public.

Health experts say China is ill-prepared for the abrupt shift in policies long championed by President Xi Jinping. A Reuters survey showed hospitals placed two to three times more bids for essential medical equipment such as ventilators and patient monitors in December than in previous months, suggesting hospitals across the country were struggling to fill shortages.

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