The coronavirus outbreak in China raises global concerns as citizens mobilize in Beijing

  • The virus is spreading rapidly in China after the policy change
  • The World Health Organization will hold a briefing after talks with Chinese scientists
  • More countries are seeking pre-boarding tests from Chinese arrivals
  • EU officials meet to coordinate Chinese travel policy

BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese state media mobilized the public on Wednesday for “final victory” over COVID-19 as overseas health officials tried to quantify the outbreak and how to prevent it from spreading.

Beijing’s abrupt repeal of “zero COVID” restrictions last month unleashed the virus on the 1.4 billion people in China who had little immunity after being protected since the virus emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan three years ago.

The World Health Organization will hold a briefing in Geneva on Wednesday, a day after WHO officials met with Chinese scientists amid concerns about the accuracy of China’s data on the outbreak. The UN agency has yet to release details of its talks.

European Union health officials also met on Wednesday to discuss a coordinated response to the outbreak in China.

Many Chinese funeral homes and hospitals say they are overwhelmed, and international health experts predict at least 1 million deaths in China this year. China has reported five or fewer deaths per day since the policy shift.

“It’s absolutely absurd,” said Zhang, a 66-year-old Beijing resident who gave only his last name of the official tally.

“Four close relatives of mine have passed away. This is just from one family. I hope the government can be honest with people and the rest of the world about what really happened here.”

China’s cabinet said on Wednesday that it will boost drug distribution and meet demand from medical institutions, nursing homes and rural areas amid the outbreak, state media reported.

“China and the Chinese people will surely win the final victory against the epidemic,” People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party, said in an editorial, refuting criticism of China’s three years of isolation, lockdowns and testing that sparked historic protests late last year. general.

Beijing has hit back at some countries that have required visitors from China to show COVID tests before departure, saying the rules are unreasonable and lack scientific basis.

Japan, the United States, Australia and several European countries are among the countries that require such tests.

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Willie Walsh, president of the world’s largest international air transport association, criticized such “unreasonable” measures, which he said had not previously stopped the spread of the virus that has infected airlines recovering from the pandemic.

China will stop requiring incoming travelers to quarantine from January 8, but they must be tested before arrival.

The World Health Organization asked Chinese scientists for data on viral sequences, hospitalizations, deaths, and vaccines. Reuters reported last month that the World Health Organization had not received data on new hospital admissions since Beijing’s policy shift.

China reported five new deaths from Covid on Tuesday, bringing the official death toll to 5,258, which is very low by global standards.

Britain-based health data company Airfinity said around 9,000 people in China likely die each day from COVID.

Patients at Shanghai’s Zhongshan Hospital, many of them elderly, were crammed into halls on Tuesday between makeshift beds with people using oxygen ventilators and intravenous drips.

A Reuters witness counted seven hearings in the parking lot of Shanghai’s Tongji Hospital on Wednesday. Workers were seen carrying at least 18 yellow bags used to transport the bodies.

China’s $17 trillion economy grew at its slowest rate in nearly half a century amid the COVID turmoil.

But the yuan was at a four-month high against the dollar on Wednesday after Finance Minister Liu Kun promised to intensify fiscal expansion. The central bank also indicated support.

UBS analysts expect China’s rapid reopening to lead to a “deeper but shorter setback” for the economy, but they also predicted a pickup in activity from February.

Meanwhile, international flight bookings in China have risen 145% year-on-year in recent days, state-run newspaper China Daily reported, citing data.

The number of flights to and from China is still a fraction of pre-COVID levels. But there are already signs that increased travel from China could cause problems abroad.

South Korea, which began testing travelers from China on Monday, said more than a fifth of the tests had tested positive.

Additional reporting by Alessandro Divigiano, Bernard Orr and Liz Lee in Beijing; Brenda Goh in Shanghai, Hyunhee Shin in Seoul, Kantaro Komiya in Tokyo; Written by Marius Zaharia and Edmund Blair. Editing by Robert Purcell and William Maclean

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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