President Xi Jinping said on Saturday that “a glimmer of hope is right before us” as China faces an explosion of Covid-19 cases after the sudden lifting of restrictions.
Three years after the coronavirus first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan, Beijing this month began rolling back its strict containment policy known as “Zero-Covid.”
Chinese hospitals have since been flooded with mostly elderly patients, crematories are overloaded and many pharmacies have run out of fever medicine.
“Epidemic prevention and control is entering a new phase… everyone is working resolutely, and the light of hope is before us,” Xi said in a televised address for the New Year.
This week marked the second time the Chinese president has commented on the outbreak. On Monday, he called for measures to “effectively protect human life”.
China on Saturday reported more than 7,000 new infections and one death linked to Covid among its population of 1.4 billion — but the figures appear out of step with reality.
Authorities announced they will end mandatory quarantine on arrival for travelers entering China from January 8 and allow Chinese people to travel abroad after three years of frustration.
In response, several European countries, including France and Italy, as well as the United States and Japan, have announced that they will require passengers arriving from China to test negative, mostly out of fear of new strains.
Canada said on Saturday it was joining the list of countries requiring negative tests for recent Covid cases in China, citing “limited epidemiological and viral genomic sequence data available”.
Morocco, meanwhile, went a step further and announced it was banning all incoming travelers from China, regardless of nationality, “to avoid a new wave of pollution in Morocco and all its consequences”.
World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the precautionary measures taken by several states were “understandable” given Beijing’s lack of information on the outbreak.
“In the absence of comprehensive information from China, it is understandable that countries around the world are acting in ways they believe can protect their populations,” he said.
However, the European branch of the International Airports Council – which represents more than 500 airports in 55 European countries – condemned the new Covid checks on Saturday.
“These unilateral steps contradict all the experience and evidence gained over the last three years,” it said in a statement.
“Imposing other restrictions on travelers from these countries is neither scientifically justified nor risk-based.”
European countries will meet next week to discuss a joint response to the issue, with incoming EU presidency holder Sweden saying it is “seeking a common policy for the entire EU on the introduction of possible entry restrictions”.
The WHO announced on Friday evening that it had met with Chinese officials to discuss the outbreak.
“WHO has again called for regular sharing of specific and real-time data on epidemiological situations — including more genetic sequencing data, disease impact data including hospitalizations, intensive care unit admissions and mortality,” the UN health agency said in a statement. The health agency said in a statement. .
It also called for information on vaccinations, especially among vulnerable people, including those over 60 years of age.
Beijing has said its Covid statistics have been transparent since the start of the pandemic.
Its zero-covid policy protected the Chinese population from 2020 through mass testing, strict movement monitoring and quarantine orders.
But the strategy isolated the country from the rest of the world and dealt a serious blow to the world’s second-largest economy.
The tough move sparked nationwide protests last month in a rare show of dissent against the ruling Communist Party.
(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and was generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)
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