Chinese media have criticized countries for introducing COVID-19 tests for travelers from China, calling them “discriminatory”.
After keeping its borders nearly closed for three years, imposing a strict lockdown and relentless testing, Beijing abruptly changed course to 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 US, India and others that have introduced COVID-19 tests for travelers from China due to concerns over the scale of the COVID-19 outbreak and skepticism over Beijing’s health statistics. .
Malaysia said it would test all arrivals from overseas 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 tabloid Global Times said in an op-ed late Thursday, calling the restrictions “unreasonable” and “discriminatory.”
China will stop requiring incoming travelers to quarantine from January 8. But he will still require a negative PCR test result within 48 hours before departure.
China’s senior health officials held a videoconference with the World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday and exchanged views on the current epidemic situation, China’s National Health Commission said in a statement without further details.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said earlier in the day that the organization needed more information to assess the latest surge in infections in China, while taking no position on the issue of road tests.
Not all countries introduce tests. The members of the European Union, in particular, are divided.
Over the past few days, French, German and Portuguese officials have said they see no need for new restrictions yet, while Austria has highlighted the economic benefits of returning Chinese tourists to Europe.
Global spending by Chinese visitors was over $250 billion a year before the pandemic.
Acting a day after EU health officials failed to agree on a joint course of action, Spain followed Italy’s lead and became the second of 27 bloc members to require testing for travelers from China.
“At the national level, we will enforce controls at airports, requiring all passengers arriving from China to show a negative COVID-19 test result or proof of a full course of vaccination,” Health Minister Carolina Darias said.
EU health experts are expected to hold a crisis response meeting next week, an EU source said.
Meanwhile, EU health chief Stella Kyriakides wrote to the bloc’s health ministers to suggest they immediately scale up genomic sequencing of COVID-19 infections and monitoring of wastewater, including from airports, to detect any new variants given the virus surge in China.
Reuters reported that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also considering sampling sewage from international aircraft to track any emerging options.
The United States has raised concerns about the possible mutations of the virus as it spreads through the world’s most populous country, as well as China’s data transparency.
Meanwhile, the COVID-19 vaccination campaign for German citizens in China has begun its pilot phase, German Ambassador to Beijing Patricia Flohr said on Twitter.
A shipment of 11,500 doses of BioNTech’s vaccine arrived last week, enough to give one shot to half of the approximately 20,000 German citizens living in China.
The lifting of restrictions in China after mass protests against them in November has left hospitals and funeral homes across the country overwhelmed, with scenes of people getting intravenous drips on the side of the road and queues of hearses outside crematoria fueling public unrest.
Health experts say China has been left unprepared by the policy reversal long championed by President Xi Jinping.
They say older people in rural areas may be particularly vulnerable due to a lack of medical resources. The Lunar New Year Festival next month, when hundreds of millions of people travel to their hometowns, will add to the risk.
China, a country of 1.4 billion people, reported one new death from COVID-19 on Thursday, the same as the day before – numbers that don’t match the experience of other countries after they reopened.
British health data company Airfinity said on Thursday that around 9,000 people in China are likely to die each day from COVID-19. The cumulative death toll in China since December 1 has likely reached 100,000, with a total of 18.6 million infected, the report said.
China’s chief epidemiologist Wu Zunyu said on Thursday that the difference between the number of deaths in the current wave of infections and the death rate for the same period in non-pandemic years will be examined to calculate “excess deaths” and assess any potential underestimation. deaths from COVID-19.