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China Stonewalls World Health Officials Over COVID-19 Case Information

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World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, reports China is stonewalling world health officials over COVID-19 cases and the WHO needs more information to assess the latest surge in infections.

This month, 19 infections have been reported across China after Beijing abandoned its zero-COVID policies, which included regular PCR testing of the population.

In response, the United States, South Korea, India, Italy, Japan, and Taiwan have all made COVID-19 tests mandatory for Chinese travelers.

“The WHO requires more detailed information to make a comprehensive risk assessment of the COVID-19 situation on the ground in #China,” Tedros said in a tweet late Thursday.

The current COVID-19 surge in China has sparked concern, with reports of hospitals filling up and waves of illness.

The foreign ministry said earlier this week that its “epidemic situation” overall was “predictable and under control”.

However, the true toll of daily cases and deaths in China is unknown because officials have stopped requiring cases to be reported and have changed COVID-19 death classifications.

South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo stated that Chinese travelers would need to have a negative PCR or antigen test before flying to South Korea. They will also be required to take a PCR test on their first day in South Korea.

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Travellers from China to be tested

Meanwhile, Israel has ordered foreign airlines not to allow passengers from China to fly unless they have tested negative – and has advised its own citizens to avoid unnecessary travel to China.

Not every country has declared controls. Germany has joined Australia, France, and Portugal in stating that no new rules will be implemented until further notice. Germany’s health minister, on the other hand, has stated that the country is looking for a coordinated system to monitor variants across European airports.

China’s decision to reopen its borders on January 8th marks the conclusion of the country’s contentious Zero-Covid policy, which President Xi Jinping personally endorsed.

As the rest of the world adjusted to life with the virus, Beijing maintained an eradication strategy that included mass testing and strict lockdowns. In November, dissatisfaction with President Xi and his government spilled onto the streets in rare protests. Beijing began to relax the restrictions a week later.

China's Reopening May Be Good for Thailand But Bad for Economy

China opens borders

Beijing has announced that its borders will be fully reopened next week for the first time since March 2020.

On Tuesday, the government announced that it would relax travel restrictions outside of China and resume issuing tourist passports for the first time in nearly three years.

This raises the prospect of a flood of Chinese tourists traveling abroad at a time when other governments are concerned about the rise in infections.

Meanwhile, the ruling party is under increased pressure to get consumers out of their homes and spending as global demand for Chinese exports weakens following interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve and European central banks to cool economic activity and tame surging inflation.

Retail sales in China fell 5.9% year on year in November. Imports fell 10.9%, indicating a worsening slump in Chinese domestic demand.

Exports fell 9% year on year in November. Forecasters believe China’s economy contracted in the fourth quarter. They have lowered annual growth forecasts to as low as 3%, which would be lower than any year in decades except 2020.

According to Goldman Sachs economists who analyzed mobility data, China is likely to see “weaker growth momentum during the frontloaded ‘exit wave’ on the back of surging infections, a temporary labor shortage, and increased supply chain disruptions,” according to a note released on Tuesday.

According to the American Chamber of Commerce in China, more than 70% of businesses polled this month “were confident that China will recover from the current COVID-19 outbreak in early 2023, allowing inbound and outbound business travel and tourism to resume thereafter.”

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