The United States, along with Japan and several European countries, decided to impose controls on travelers arriving from China, in light of the precautionary measures that the head of the World Health Organization considered “understandable”, given the lack of information from Beijing after the restrictions imposed on combating Covid were lifted.
However, the health authorities in China confirmed Thursday that they have been publishing the data “in the interest of openness and transparency,” according to statements reported by the new Chinese news agency, “Xinhua”.
On Friday, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced only 5,515 new cases and one death. It seems that these numbers no longer reflect reality, because large-scale examinations are no longer applied.
A delegation from the World Health Organization met with Chinese officials on Friday to discuss the huge rise in the number of Covid-19 infections in their country, calling on them to share data in real time so that other countries can respond effectively.
“A high-level meeting was held on December 30 between WHO and China on the current increase in COVID-19 cases, with the aim of obtaining more information on the situation and providing expertise and support from WHO,” the UN health agency said in a statement.
The statement indicated that “the World Health Organization has again requested the regular sharing of specific data on the epidemiological situation, in real time, including more data on genetic sequencing, the impact of the disease … and cases requiring hospitalization and intensive care units, as well as about deaths.” .
Meanwhile, the European Union’s health agency has expressed its belief that imposing mandatory Covid-19 checks on travelers from China is “unjustified”.
The European Center for Disease Control and Prevention said that it does not believe that the high number of infections in China will affect the epidemiological situation in the bloc, “given the higher population immunity within the countries of the European Union and the European Economic Area, in addition to the fact that variants currently circulating in China have previously appeared and subsequently changed.” .
Three years after the first cases of Covid-19 appeared in Wuhan (center), China abruptly canceled its strict “Zero Covid” policy on December 7.
This policy, adopted since 2020, has allowed the population to be largely protected from the virus, thanks to generalized testing, strict control of movements and also to mandatory and quarantine once cases are detected.
However, these harsh measures, which have kept the country largely isolated from the rest of the planet, dealt a severe blow to the world’s second largest economy and sparked extraordinary discontent in November.
Since the restrictions were lifted, hospitals have been overwhelmed with patients, the majority of whom are elderly and frail due to not being vaccinated, while many pharmacies lack fever-reducing medicines.
China has kept its borders largely closed to foreign nationals since 2020.
The country stopped issuing tourist visas about three years ago, while imposing mandatory quarantine upon arrival. This quarantine procedure will be lifted on January 8, but the PCR test must still be taken 48 hours in advance.
In response, the United States and other countries, including Italy, Japan and South Korea, announced that they would require negative COVID-19 tests for all arrivals from mainland China.
On Friday, the Spanish government required travelers from China to conduct “checks” at its airports to ensure that they did not have Covid.
Spanish Health Minister Carolina Darías said in a press conference that these arrivals will be asked for “evidence that their tests are negative or a certificate of vaccination in full,” without mentioning when the measure will enter into force.
On Friday, the Israeli Ministry of Health announced the imposition of a negative Covid test on foreigners coming from China.
Health Minister Aryeh Deri asked the ministry’s interests to establish a “voluntary” examination center for people returning from China, and recommended that citizens “avoid” traveling to this country.
And the French government announced on Friday evening that it is mandatory to present a negative Covid-19 test for travelers heading to France before taking off from China.
Also in the United Kingdom, the government announced the imposition of a similar measure on arrivals from China, British media reported Friday.
In an indication of the divisions in Europe over responding to the new situation in China, Germany, for its part, calls for monitoring the spread of Covid-19 mutants at European airports without going so far as to impose corona tests.
In Brussels, an informal meeting of the European Commission, with the aim of developing a “coordinated approach” for member states, did not lead to a decision.
At Beijing Capital International Airport, most Chinese people interviewed by AFP Thursday expressed their understanding of the measures taken towards China.
“Every country has its own fears and way of protecting itself,” said Huang Hongshu, 21, noting that the potential spread of new variants was a cause for concern. A traveler told AFP that these measures were “useless”. “It’s a bit of a discrimination,” said Ho, who declined to reveal his full name.
The 22-year-old noted that in China, “our Covid policy is applied to international arrivals in the same way as everyone else,” asking, “Why do other countries treat people from China in particular?”
On the pandemic front, hospitals are grappling with a surge in cases that hits the elderly hardest.
In Shanghai, on Thursday, AFP journalists saw patients wearing masks being transported on stretchers to a hospital in the city. Inside the hospital, a patient complained that he had to wait four hours for medication.