- US, Japan, others require COVID tests from Chinese visitors
- Chinese state media calls the COVID travel restrictions “discriminatory.”
- China’s factory activity likely to cool in December – poll
BEIJING, Dec 30 (Reuters) – Chinese state media said COVID-19 testing requirements imposed around the world in response to rising waves of infections were “discriminatory”, in an even clearer pushback against restrictions that are slowing its re-opening. .
After three years of closing its borders by imposing a strict regime of lockdowns and relentless testing, China abruptly reversed course on Dec. 7 to live with the virus and a wave of infections erupted across the country.
While some places have been stunned by the scale of China’s outbreak and skeptical of Beijing’s COVID statistics, the United States, South Korea, India, Italy, Japan and Taiwan have imposed COVID tests on travelers from China.
Malaysia says it will test all international arrivals for the flu.
“The real intention is to undermine China’s three-year-old COVID-19 control efforts and attack the country’s system,” state-run tabloid Global Times said in an article late Thursday, calling the restrictions “baseless” and “discriminatory.”
China will stop quarantine of incoming travelers from January 8. But it requires a negative PCR test result within 48 hours before departure.
Italy on Thursday urged the rest of the European Union to follow its lead, while France, Germany and Portugal said new restrictions were not needed, while Austria stressed the economic benefits of Chinese tourists returning to Europe.
Global spending by Chinese visitors was worth more than $250 billion a year before the pandemic.
The United States has expressed concern over potential variants of the virus as it sweeps through the world’s most populous country and over China’s data transparency.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is considering wastewater samples from international flights to detect 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 day before — numbers that don’t match the experience of other countries since they re-opened.
China’s official death toll since the outbreak began is 5,247 compared to more than 1 million in the United States. Chinese-administered Hong Kong, a city of 7.4 million, has reported more than 11,000 deaths.
Airfinity, a UK-based health data firm, said on Thursday that nearly 9,000 people in China are dying from COVID every day. Cumulative deaths in China since Dec. 1 have topped 100,000, with infections totaling 18.6 million, it said.
Wu Junyu, China’s chief epidemiologist, said on Thursday that a team from China’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will measure the difference between the number of deaths in current waves of infection and the number of deaths expected if the epidemic had never occurred. By calculating the “excess mortality,” Wu said, China is able to work out what could potentially be underestimated.
China said it considers only deaths of COVID patients caused by pneumonia and respiratory failure as COVID-related.
The relatively low death toll is inconsistent with the growing demand reported by funeral parlors in several Chinese cities.
The lifting of restrictions after widespread protests against them in November have overwhelmed hospitals and funeral homes across the country, with people on intravenous drips on roadsides and queues of cremations outside cemeteries, fueling public concern.
Health experts say China is ill-prepared for a U-turn in policies long championed by President Xi Jinping.
In December, tenders put out by hospitals for key equipment such as ventilators and patient monitors were two to three times higher than in previous months, according to a Reuters review, suggesting hospitals are scrambling to cover shortages.
Experts say the elderly in rural areas can be particularly vulnerable due to inadequate medical resources. Next month’s Lunar New Year festival, when hundreds of millions of people travel to their hometowns, increases the risk.
The world’s second largest economy is expected to slow further in the near term as factory workers and traders fall ill. Some economists predict a strong bounce from the lows next year, but concerns linger that some of the damage done by the three-year restrictions could be long-lasting.
Consumers may need time to recover their confidence and spending appetite after losing income during the lockdowns, while the private sector may have used its expansionary funds to offset the losses caused by the restrictions.
Heavily indebted China faces slowing demand in its main export markets, while its massive property sector is licking its wounds after a series of defaults.
China’s factory activity cooled in December as rising infections began to affect production lines, a Reuters poll showed on Friday.
However, Chinese airlines seem to be the early winners of the re-opening.
Written by Marius Zaharia. Editing by Gerry Doyle
Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.