Health

Lack of info on China’s COVID-19 surge stirs global concerns

BEIJING — Moves by a number of international locations to mandate COVID-19 checks for passengers arriving from China mirror global concern that new variants might emerge in its ongoing explosive outbreak — and that the federal government could not inform the remainder of the world shortly sufficient.

There have been no experiences of new variants thus far, however China has been accused of not being forthcoming in regards to the virus because it first surfaced within the nation in late 2019. The fear is that it is probably not sharing knowledge now on any indicators of evolving strains that might spark recent outbreaks elsewhere.

The U.S., Japan, India, South Korea, Taiwan and Italy have introduced testing necessities for passengers from China. The U.S. cited each the surge in infections and what it mentioned was an absence of data, together with genomic sequencing of the virus strains within the nation.

Authorities in Taiwan and Japan have expressed comparable concern.

“Right now the pandemic situation in China is not transparent,” Wang Pi-Sheng, the head of Taiwan’s epidemic command center, told The Associated Press. “We have a very limited grasp on its information, and it’s not very accurate.”

The island will begin testing everybody arriving from China on Jan. 1, forward of the anticipated return of about 30,000 Taiwanese for the Lunar New Year vacation later within the month. The new Japanese guidelines, which prohibit flights from mainland China, Hong Kong and Macao to designated airports starting Friday, are already disrupting vacation journey plans.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin famous Thursday that many international locations haven’t modified their insurance policies for vacationers from China and mentioned that any measures ought to deal with folks from all international locations equally.

Every new an infection provides an opportunity for the coronavirus to mutate, and it’s spreading quickly in China. Scientists cannot say whether or not meaning the surge will unleash a brand new mutant on the world — however they fear that may occur.

Chinese well being officers have mentioned the present outbreak is being pushed by variations of the omicron variant which have additionally been detected elsewhere, and a surveillance system has been set as much as determine any probably worrisome new variations of the virus. Wu Zunyou, the chief epidemiologist at China’s Center for Disease Control, mentioned Thursday that China has at all times reported the virus strains it has present in a well timed approach.

“We keep nothing secret,” he mentioned. “All work is shared with the world.”

German Health Ministry spokesperson Sebastian Guelde said authorities there have “no indication that a more dangerous variant has developed in this outbreak in China,” but they are monitoring the situation. The European Union is also assessing the situation, though its executive branch noted that a prevalent variant in China is already active in Europe.

More broadly, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has mentioned the physique wants extra data on the severity of the outbreak in China, significantly on hospital and ICU admissions, “in order to make a comprehensive risk assessment of the situation on the ground.”

China rolled back many of its tough pandemic restrictions earlier this month, allowing the virus to spread rapidly in a country that had seen relatively few infections since an initial devastating outbreak in the city of Wuhan. Spiraling infections have led to shortages of cold medicine, long lines at fever clinics, and at-capacity emergency rooms turning away patients. Cremations have risen several-fold, with a request from overburdened funeral homes in one city for families to postpone funeral services until next month.

Chinese state media has not reported the fallout from the surge widely and government officials have blamed Western media for hyping up the situation.

The global concerns, tinged with anger, are a direct result of the ruling Communist Party’s sudden exit from some of the world’s most stringent anti-virus policies, said Miles Yu, director of the China Center at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington.

“You can’t conduct the lunacy of ‘zero-COVID’ lockdowns for such a long period of time … and then suddenly unleash a multitude of the infected from a caged China to the world,” risking major outbreaks elsewhere, Yu said in an email.

Dr. David Dowdy, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said the move by the U.S. may be more about increasing pressure on China to share more information than stopping a new variant from entering the country.

China has been accused of masking the virus situation in the country before. An AP investigation found that the government sat on the release of genetic information about the virus for more than a week after decoding it, frustrating WHO officials.

The government also tightly controlled the dissemination of Chinese research on the virus, impeding cooperation with international scientists.

Research into the origins of the virus has also been stymied. A WHO expert group said in a report this year that “key pieces of data” had been lacking on the how the pandemic started and known as for a extra in-depth investigation.

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Wu reported from Taipei, Taiwan. Associated Press journalists Geir Moulson in Berlin, Carla Ok. Johnson in Seattle and Kanis Leung in Hong Kong and video producer Liu Zheng in Beijing contributed.

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