Chinese media underestimates COVID severity as WHO seeks details on variables

Chinese media underestimates COVID severity as WHO seeks details on variables
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  • State media says serious illness from COVID is rare
  • Chinese scientists informed WHO
  • Factory activity in China contracted in December

BEIJING/HONG KONG/GENEVA, Jan. 3 (Reuters) – As state media in China downplayed the severity of the rise in COVID-19 infections on Tuesday, scientists briefed the World Health Organization, which is seeking further details on the development. your virus.

The global agency invited scientists to submit detailed data on viral sequencing at a technical advisory group meeting on Tuesday and asked China to share data on hospitalizations, deaths and vaccines.

The WHO spokesperson said he will communicate later after the meeting, possibly at a news briefing on Wednesday. The spokesperson previously said the agency expects a “detailed discussion” about the variants in circulation in China and around the world.

The sudden U-turn 7 at China’s COVID checks on December 1, along with data on cases and deaths, has come under increased scrutiny at home and abroad.

China’s foreign ministry has announced that travel entry restrictions imposed by some countries “just illogical‘, he said, ‘lack of scientific basis’.

“We are ready to improve communication with the world,” foreign ministry spokesman Mao Ning told reporters in Beijing.

“However … we strongly oppose attempts to manipulate epidemic prevention and control measures for political purposes.”

WHO regularly reports to Chinese health authorities Share specific and real-time information about the epidemic.

A White House National Security Council official did not comment on Tuesday’s meeting, but reiterated the WHO’s call for more information.

“Public health experts and officials, including the United States, have become clear that it is important for the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to share more adequate and transparent epidemiological and viral genomic sequence data,” he said. “This is in the interest of the PRC and the international community and is critical to identify possible variants.”

China’s move away from the “zero COVID” policy advocated by President Xi Jinping followed the protests that represented the strongest popular resistance during his decade in power and coincided with the slowest growth of the economy in nearly half a century.

As the virus spreads uncontrollably, funeral homes have reported increased demand for services, and international health experts estimate that at least one million people died in China this year.

China reported three new COVID deaths on Monday, bringing the official death toll to 5,253 since the pandemic began.


On Tuesday, the Communist Party’s official newspaper, People’s Daily, quoted Chinese experts as saying that the illness caused by the virus is relatively mild for most people.

“Severe and critically ill make up between 3% and 4% of infected patients currently admitted to designated hospitals in Beijing,” Tong Zhaohui, vice president of Beijing Chaoyang Hospital, told the newspaper.

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

Before their meeting, two leading scientists and members of the WHO committee had a “more realistic picture“About the situation in China. They didn’t comment any further after it was over.

But some experts were skeptical that Beijing would be too outspoken.

“I don’t think China would be too candid in divulging information,” said Alfred Wu, an associate professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore.

“They prefer to keep it to themselves or say that there is nothing, nothing is new. In my opinion, we can assume that there is nothing new … but the problem is that China always has a transparency problem.”

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

China will stop mandating the quarantine of incoming travelers from 1 January. 8. However, it will still request a pre-take-off test.


As Chinese workers and shoppers fall ill, concerns about the short-term outlook for the world’s second-largest economy are mounting, causing market volatility. global financial markets.

A survey released on Tuesday found that China’s factory activity shrunk last month

And”Forest fire“Infections in China in the coming months are likely to hurt its economy this year and drag down global growth,” said Kristalina Georgieva, head of the International Monetary Fund.

Capital Economics analysts warned that “China is entering the most dangerous weeks of the epidemic.”

There is the European Union offered for free COVID-19 vaccines to China as concerns about rising infections rise. An EU spokesperson said Beijing has yet to respond to the offer.

So far, China has insisted on using only Chinese-made vaccines, which appear to be less effective than Western vaccines based on mRNA technology.

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

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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