Global alarm is growing over the wave of COVID-19 infections in China

The United States has joined a growing number of countries in imposing restrictions on travelers from China, after Beijing abruptly lifted the biggest barrier to international travel despite a local surge in infections.

Hospitals across China have been overwhelmed by an explosion of coronavirus cases after the rollback of the “zero covid” policy, which contained infections but hit the economy and sparked protests.

The country announced on Monday it would lift its quarantine requirement for people arriving from overseas, prompting many Chinese to plan international travel.

In response, several countries, including the United States, announced they would require negative COVID-19 tests to admit visitors from China.

“The recent rapid increase in transmission of COVID-19 in China raises the potential for the emergence of new variants” of the virus, a senior US health official told reporters.

Beijing has provided limited information on the variants circulating in China, according to the official, and checks and reports of new infections have also decreased.

Italy, Japan, India and Malaysia have also announced restrictive measures to avoid the import of variants from China.

Beijing has criticized the Western press’s “exaggeration, defamation and political manipulation” of its coronavirus plight.

Stop publishing the death toll

“The current development of China’s epidemiological situation is predictable and under control,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Wednesday.

China still does not allow entry of foreign visitors and has suspended the issuance of visas for international tourists and students.

But the lifting of the mandatory quarantine has sparked huge interest among Chinese in overseas travel, after having been largely confined to their own country since Beijing imposed restrictions in March 2020.

Italy argued that requiring testing of visitors from that country was “essential to ensure surveillance and identification of variants of the virus to protect the Italian population,” Health Minister Orazio Schillaci said.

In turn, French President Emmanuel Macron has called for “adequate measures to protect” its population and has ensured that his government is monitoring “the evolution of the situation in China”.

The European Commission will meet on Thursday to discuss “possible measures for a coordinated approach” of the European Union to infections in China.

China’s National Health Commission announced last week that it would stop publishing the daily count of coronavirus deaths.

But with the end of mass testing and the Chinese decision to change the definition of death from covid, those figures are no longer credible for some analysts.

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