Coronavirus: France and Great Britain impose Covid tests on travelers from China

BEIJING: France and Britain on Friday joined a growing list of countries imposing Covid tests on travelers from China, and the World Health Organization has urged Beijing to be more open about real-time data amid an explosion of cases there.
Spain, South Korea and Israel have also said they will require proof of a negative test for travelers leaving China.
Although its hospitals and morgues are overwhelmed – and international concern over low official infection and death figures there – China insisted on Friday that it had been transparent in sharing its Covid-19 data.
Earlier this week, a senior US health official said Beijing had provided only limited data to global databases on variants circulating in China, and its testing and reporting of new cases had declined.
The Geneva-based World Health Organization summoned Chinese officials and “requested the regular sharing of specific, real-time data on the epidemiological situation,” the agency said in a statement.
“WHO has stressed the importance of monitoring and timely release of data to help China and the global community…to inform effective responses,” he said.
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wen Bin refuted suggestions that the country had not provided data: “Since the start of the epidemic, China has shared relevant information and data with the international community, including the WHO, in an open and transparent manner. .
“We shared the novel coronavirus sequence in the first instance, making important contributions to the development of relevant vaccines (and) drugs in other countries.”
A national disease control body in China said there were around 5,500 new local cases and one death on Friday but, with mass testing ending and criteria narrowing for what counts as a Covid death, these figures are no longer supposed to reflect reality.
Britain, France, Spain, South Korea and Israel have joined Italy, Japan, India, Malaysia, Taiwan and the US in requiring negative Covid tests for all travelers from mainland China, in an effort to avoid importing new virus variants.
In the case of Great Britain, the requirement comes into force from January 5.
Switzerland, however, said it would keep its borders open to arrivals from China.
In Beijing, Wang argued that health experts from several countries had decided there was no need to impose entry restrictions on travelers from China.
The European Infectious Diseases Agency (ECDC) said on Thursday that such restrictions were not warranted at this time, due to high levels of immunity in the EU and European Economic Area.
Germany appeared to take this into account on Friday, saying it currently sees no need to impose routine testing on arrivals from China.
But Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has argued for a coordinated EU-wide system to monitor variants at European airports.
“We need a European solution,” he said.
A coordinated approach would make it easier to detect new variants of the coronavirus and take appropriate action, he added.
And while routine testing was “not yet necessary” for arrivals from China, that could change given that data from China could not be reliably obtained.
Justifying the restrictions Spain had decided to impose, Health Minister Carolina Darias said: “A major concern is the possibility of new variants appearing in China that have not been controlled.
“Given the health situation in this country, we know the importance of acting in a coordinated way, but also the importance of acting quickly,” she added.
Jiao Yahui of China’s National Health Commission (NHC) insisted on Thursday that Beijing has always released data ‘on deaths and serious cases of Covid-19 in a spirit of openness and transparency’. .
The NHC said last week it would no longer publish the official daily Covid death toll.
But health risk analysis firm Airfinity said it currently estimates 9,000 daily deaths and 1.8 million infections per day in China, and expects 1.7 million deaths. across the country by the end of April 2023.
The Britain-based research firm said its model was based on data from regional Chinese provinces before infection reporting changes were implemented, combined with case growth rates from other former zero- Covid when they lifted the restrictions.
China said this month it would end mandatory quarantine for people arriving in the country and had dropped strict measures to contain the virus.
The world’s most populous country will downgrade its handling of Covid-19 from January 8, treating it as a Class B infection rather than a more serious Class A.

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