China media plays down COVID severity as WHO seeks detail on variants

  • According to government reports serious illness from COVID is rare
  • Chinese scientists speak to the WHO
  • China’s factory production declines in December

BEIJING / HONG KONG / GENEVA, Jan 3 (Reuters) – State media in China downplayed the potential for a spike in COVID-19 infections on Tuesday, as its scientists told the Health Ministry of the World, looking for information on development. of the virus.

The world body asked scientists to present detailed information about the virus’s sequence at a technical advisory group meeting on Tuesday, and asked China to share information on hospitals, infections and vaccines. vaccine.

The WHO will speak later, possibly at a briefing on Wednesday, its spokesman said after the meeting. The spokesman said earlier that the agency was looking forward to “discussing” the differences in China and internationally.

China’s sudden change on COVID controls on December 7, along with the accuracy of its case and death data, has drawn intense scrutiny at home and abroad.

China’s foreign ministry has called travel bans imposed by some countries “absurd”, saying it has “no scientific basis”.

“We are willing to improve international communication,” foreign ministry spokesman Mao Ning told reporters in Beijing.

“But … we are strongly opposed to trying to manipulate pandemic prevention and control measures for political purposes.”

The WHO has urged Chinese health officials to share specifics and information about the outbreak.

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A White House Security Council official did not comment on Tuesday’s meeting, but said WHO calls for more information.

“Health experts and public officials, including the United States, have understood that it is important for the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to share epidemiological and virus sequence data,” the official said. “This is important for the PRC and the international community and it is important to identify differences.”

China’s move away from the “no-COVID” policy endorsed by President Xi Jinping was followed by protests that marked the strongest public opposition in his decade in power, and it coincided with the slowest economic growth in nearly half a century.

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

China reported three new COVID-19 deaths on Monday, bringing its official death toll since the start of the epidemic to 5,253.


On Sunday, the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party, reported that Chinese experts said that most people are easily infected by the virus.

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

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Kang Yan, head of West China Tianfu Hospital of Sichuan University, said that in the past three weeks 46 patients were admitted to intensive care units, representing about 1% of the total symptomatic disease.

Two leading scientists and members of the WHO committee said before its meeting that they would seek a “more accurate picture” of the situation in China. They didn’t say anything after it was over.

But some experts doubted Beijing would be right.

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

“It’s better to keep them to themselves, and say that nothing happened, nothing new. I personally think that we can think that nothing new … but the problem is the clear reason of China is still there.”

The United States, France, Italy and others have said they will require COVID tests for travelers from China. European Union health officials will meet on Wednesday on a coordinated response.

“As we have said, the United States has sent vaccines to China and other COVID-19 support. China has publicly stated that they appreciate the donation but do not need the support. . We stand by our offer,” a White House spokesman said. The National Security Council said.

China will stop requiring people to go into quarantine from January 8. But it will still require a test before departure.

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‘Risk WEEK’

As Chinese workers and consumers suffer, concerns over the near-term outlook for the world’s second-largest economy rise and global financial markets tumble.

A survey released on Tuesday showed a decline in Chinese factory activity last month.

A “wildfire” of infections in China in the coming months could devastate its economy this year and drag global growth down, said the head of the International Monetary Fund, Kristalina Georgieva. .

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

The European Union has offered free COVID-19 vaccines to China amid growing concern over rising infections. Beijing has not yet responded to the offer, an EU spokesman said.

So far China has insisted on only using Chinese vaccines, which are said to be less effective than Western ones based on mRNA technology.

(This story has been edited to remove extraneous words on page 9)

Information from the Beijing and Shanghai offices; additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt and Steve Holland in Washington, Farah Master in Hong Kong, Emma Farge in Geneva and Jennifer Rigby in London; Written by Marius Zaharia and Sumeet Chatterjee; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan, Robert Birsel, Simon Cameron-Moore and Tomasz Janowski

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters’ Guardian Principles.


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