The United States is among a dozen countries that have imposed restrictions on travelers from China since the latter removed strict COVID controls last month that had protected its population of 1.4 billion. of the virus for three years.
Global health officials are now trying to bring an outbreak under control that is filling hospitals and overwhelming some funeral homes, at odds with China’s official low death toll from the virus.
Mike Ryan, WHO emergency director, told a press briefing on Wednesday that the current figures released by China under-represent hospital admissions, intensive care unit patients and deaths.
Speaking hours later, Mr Biden said he was concerned about China’s handling of the outbreak.
“They’re very sensitive … when we suggest they haven’t been very forthcoming,” he told reporters during a visit to Kentucky.
WHO’s comments on the lack of data were among the most critical to date and could prompt a response from Beijing at its usual foreign ministry press briefing later on Thursday.
Chinese state media did not immediately cover WHO’s remarks on Thursday. In previous statements, the Chinese government has downplayed the gravity of the situation.
The Global Times, a state-run newspaper, said in an article on Wednesday that COVID infections had peaked in several major cities, including the capital, Beijing, citing interviews with doctors at major hospitals.
China reported one more death from COVID-19 on the mainland for Wednesday, up from five the day before, bringing its official death toll to 5,259.
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With one of the lowest COVID death rates in the world, China has been routinely accused of underreporting infections and deaths for political reasons.
Chinese health officials have said only deaths caused by pneumonia and respiratory failure in patients who had the virus are classified as COVID deaths.
Methods of counting COVID deaths have varied from country to country since the pandemic broke out in central China’s city of Wuhan in late 2019.
Yet disease experts outside China have said that approach would overlook several other widely recognized types of life-threatening COVID complications, from blood clots and heart attacks to sepsis and kidney failure.
International health experts predict at least 1 million COVID-related deaths in China this year without urgent action. Britain-based health data company Airfinity has estimated that around 9,000 people in China are likely dying from COVID every day.
Despite those worries, Asian stocks rose on Thursday as investors hoped China would emerge from the pandemic.
“China’s reopening is having a big impact…around the world,” said Joanne Goh, investment strategist at DBS Bank Singapore, because not only is it boosting tourism and consumption, but it can ease some of the hardships. of the supply chain observed in 2022.
“There will be setbacks along the way,” Goh said, presenting the outlook to reporters. “We’re giving him six months to adjust to the process. But we don’t think it’s reversible.”
As countries try to get more information on the extent and severity of the outbreak in China, several have required travelers from China to undergo COVID tests.
European Union officials on Wednesday recommended that passengers traveling from China to the 27-member bloc have a negative COVID-19 test before beginning their journey.
Officials have also called for sewage to be tested and sequenced on planes arriving from China and at airports that receive international flights, among other measures.
China has criticized border controls imposed by other countries on its residents as unreasonable and unscientific.
While China will stop requiring incoming travelers to self-quarantine from January 8, it will still require them to take a COVID test before they arrive.
Hong Kong residents have swarmed clinics to get their COVID-19 shots ahead of the planned reopening of the city’s border with mainland China, which some fear could lead to a spike in infections in the financial hub .