Covid-19 travel curbs against Chinese visitors ‘discriminatory’, says state media

BEIJING – Chinese state media said Covid-19 testing requirements imposed by some parts of the world in response to a surge of infections were “discriminatory”, in the clearest pushback yet against restrictions that are delaying its reopening.

After keeping its borders virtually closed for three years, enforcing a strict regime of lockdowns and relentless testing, China suddenly turned its course towards living with the virus on December 7, and a wave erupted infections across the country.

The scale of China’s outbreak has shocked some and cast doubt on Beijing’s Covid-19 statistics, with the United States, South Korea, India, Italy, Japan and Taiwan imposing Covid-19 tests on travelers from China.

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“The real intention is to sabotage China’s three years of Covid-19 control efforts and attack the country’s system,” the state-controlled Global Times tabloid said in an article late Thursday, calling the “unfounded” and “discriminatory” restrictions.

China will stop requiring travelers to enter quarantine from January 8. But he will still claim a negative PCR test result within 48 hours before departure.

Italy on Thursday urged the rest of the European Union to follow its lead, but France, Germany and Portugal said they saw no need for new restrictions, while Austria stressed the economic benefits of a return Chinese tourists to Europe.

Global spending by visitors from China was worth more than US$250 billion (S$336 billion) in the year before the pandemic.

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The United States is concerned about the possible mutations of the virus as it passes through the world’s most populous country, as well as China’s data transparency.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is considering sampling wastewater from international aircraft to track any emerging new strains, the agency told Reuters.

China, a country of 1.4 billion people, reported one new Covid-19 death for Thursday, the same as the previous day – numbers that are not in line with the experience of other countries after they have reopened.

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

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UK-based health data firm Airfinity said on Thursday that around 9,000 people in China are probably dying every day from Covid-19. Cumulative deaths in China since December 1 probably reached 100,000, and total infections of 18.6 million, he said.

Airfinity expects China’s Covid-19 infections to reach their first peak on January 13, with 3.7 million cases per day.

China’s chief epidemiologist Wu Zunyou said Thursday that a team at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention plans to assess deaths differently.

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