China media downplays severity of COVID as WHO seeks details on variants

China media downplays severity of COVID as WHO seeks details on variants
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  • State media say severe COVID illness is rare
  • Chinese scientists brief WHO
  • Chinese factory activity contracts in December

BEIJING/HONG KONG/GENEVA, Jan 3 (Reuters) – State media in China downplayed the severity of a surge in COVID-19 infections ahead of a briefing by its scientists to the World Health Organization on Tuesday. , who expected a “detailed discussion” on the evolution of the virus.

China’s abrupt u-turn in COVID checks on December 2. 7, as well as the accuracy of its case and mortality data, have come under increasing scrutiny at home and abroad.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry called the travel entry restrictions imposed by some countries “just unreasonable“, saying that they “lacked scientific basis.

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

“But… we strongly oppose attempts to manipulate epidemic prevention and control measures for political purposes, and we will take corresponding measures in different situations in accordance with the principle of reciprocity.”

The WHO has urged Chinese health officials to share specific and real-time information about the outbreak. The world body invited Chinese scientists to present detailed data on viral sequencing at a technical advisory group meeting on Tuesday. It has also called on China to share data on hospitalizations, deaths and vaccinations.

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

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

China reported three new deaths from COVID for Monday, raising its official death toll since the pandemic began to 5,253.

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

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

Kang Yan, director of Sichuan University West China Tianfu Hospital, said that in the past three weeks, 46 patients were admitted to intensive care units, accounting for about 1% of symptomatic infections.

The emergency area of ​​Zhongshan Hospital in Shanghai was packed with patients on Tuesday, a Reuters witness said.

Some were in beds in the hallway receiving IVs while dozens queued around them, hoping to see a doctor. It was not clear how many were there with COVID.


Ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, a WHO spokesman said a “detailed discussion” on variants circulating in China and around the world was expected, with Chinese scientists expected to give a presentation.

Two leading scientists and committee members meeting Tuesday said they would look for a “more realistic image“about the situation in China. They did not comment further on the private meeting after it ended.

The WHO spokesman added that the agency would communicate at a later stage, likely at a news conference on Wednesday.

But some experts doubted that Beijing was very direct.

“I don’t think China is very candid in disclosing information,” said Alfred Wu, an associate professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore.

“They prefer to keep it to themselves or they would say that nothing happened, that nothing is new. My opinion is that we could assume that there is nothing new… but the problem is that the problem of China’s transparency is always there.”

The United States, France, Italy and others will require COVID tests for travelers from China, while Belgium said it would test aircraft wastewater for new variants.

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

China will stop requiring incoming travelers to quarantine from January 1. 8. But it will still require a pre-departure test.


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

The European Union has offered free COVID-19 vaccines to China as concern grows over rising infections.

Beijing has yet to respond to the offer, an EU spokesman said, but the move comes after Germany shipped 11,500 BioNTech last month. (22UAy.DE) COVID shots to China for use by German citizens there.

Until now, China has insisted on using only Chinese-made vaccines, which are considered less effective than Western ones based on mRNA technology.

A survey published on Tuesday showed that China factory activity dropped last month.

Foxconn’s December Shipments (2317.TW) Zhengzhou iPhone plant disrupted by worker walkouts and riots amid COVID outbreak, were 90% of the company’s initial plans.

A”Forest fire“The number of infections in China in the coming months is likely to hurt its economy this year and drag down global growth,” International Monetary Fund director Kristalina Georgieva said.

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

The Ministry of Culture and Tourism said the 52.71 million domestic trips during the New Year holiday generated 26.52 billion yuan (3.84 billion U.S. dollars), up 4% from the previous year but accounted for only about 35%. of the last year before the pandemic in 2019.

Expectations are higher for the big Lunar New Year holiday later this month, when some experts predict infections will have peaked in many places.

Reports from the Beijing and Shanghai offices; Additional reporting by Farah Master in Hong Kong and Emma Farge in Geneva and Jennifer Rigby in London; Written by Marius Zaharia and Sumeet Chatterjee; Edited by Raju Gopalakrishnan, Robert Birsel, Simon Cameron-Moore, and Tomasz Janowski

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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