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WHO Pleads for More China Covid Data as Beijing Slams Curbs

China’s state media were playing down the severity of the Covid picture in China as the World Health Organization urged openness

Commuters ride a subway train during the morning rush hour amid the Covid-19 outbreak, in Shanghai, China
Commuters ride a subway train during the morning rush hour amid the Covid-19 outbreak, in Shanghai, China. Photo: Reuters


The World Health Organization again urged China to be more open about its Covid situation ahead of a briefing by Beijing’s scientists to the body on Tuesday.

The plea for a “detailed discussion” on the progress of the virus came as China’s media were playing down the severity of the latest surge in Covid-19 infections.

China’s abrupt U-turn on Covid controls on December 7, as well as the accuracy of its case and mortality data, have come under increasing scrutiny at home and abroad.


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China’s foreign ministry, though, labelled travel entry curbs imposed by some countries as “simply unreasonable”, saying they “lacked scientific basis”.

“We are willing to improve communication with the world,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning told reporters in Beijing.

“But … we are firmly opposed to attempts to manipulate the epidemic prevention and control measures for political purposes, and will take corresponding measures in different situations according to the principle of reciprocity.”

China’s shift away from a “zero-Covid” policy that had been championed by President Xi Jinping followed protests that had marked the strongest show of public defiance during his decade in power and had coincided with the economy’s slowest growth in nearly half a century.

As the virus spreads unchecked, funeral parlours have reported a spike in demand for their services and international health experts predict at least one million deaths in China this year.

China, though, reported three new Covid deaths for Monday, taking its official death toll since the pandemic began to 5,253.

On Tuesday, the People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s official newspaper, cited Chinese experts as saying the illness caused by the virus was relatively mild for most people.

“Severe and critical illnesses account for 3% to 4% of infected patients currently admitted to designated hospitals in Beijing,” Tong Zhaohui, vice president of the Beijing Chaoyang Hospital, told the newspaper.

Kang Yan, head of West China Tianfu Hospital of Sichuan University, said that in the past three weeks, a total of 46 patients had been admitted to intensive care units, or about 1% of symptomatic infections.

The emergencies area at the Zhongshan Hospital in Shanghai was packed with patients on Tuesday, a Reuters witness said.


US to Demand China Covid Tests

The WHO has urged Chinese health officials to regularly share specific and real-time information on the outbreak and has also asked China to share data on hospitalisations, deaths and vaccinations.

The United States, France, and others will now require Covid tests on travellers from China, while Belgium said it would test wastewater from planes for new variants.

European Union health officials will meet on Wednesday to discuss a coordinated response.

As Chinese workers and shoppers fall ill, concerns are mounting about near-term growth prospects in the world’s second-largest economy, causing volatility in global financial markets.

A survey released on Tuesday showed China’s factory activity shrank last month.

A “bushfire” of infections in China in coming months is likely to hurt its economy this year and drag global growth lower, said the head of the International Monetary Fund, Kristalina Georgieva.

“China is entering the most dangerous weeks of the pandemic,” warned Capital Economics analysts.


  • Reuters with additional editing by Sean O’Meara


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Sean O'Meara

Sean O'Meara is an Editor at Asia Financial. He has been a newspaper man for more than 30 years, working at local, regional and national titles in the UK as a writer, sub-editor, page designer and print editor. A football, cricket and rugby fan, he has a particular interest in sports finance.


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