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China calls ‘unacceptable’ Covid tests demanded of its passengers – 01/04/2023 at 01:56

At Dongren Hospital in Shanghai, China on January 3, 2023 (AFP / Hector Rethamol)

At Dongren Hospital in Shanghai, China on January 3, 2023 (AFP / Hector Rethamol)

Beijing on Tuesday condemned a dozen countries imposing Covid tests on travelers from China, with a majority of members of the European Union backing such a move.

“Some countries have imposed entry restrictions targeting only travelers from China. This is unscientific and some practices are unacceptable,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning said. China “may take countermeasures, in accordance with the principle of reciprocity”.

Among the recommendations, a group of health experts from the 27 EU members (Health Protection Committee) called on Tuesday in Brussels to impose tests on travelers from China “with a majority”, according to the European Commission’s Door Word. .

They investigated the wearing of masks, control of aircraft sewage and increased testing, along with genetic sequencing, at arrival airports to identify potential new variants.

“These measures should be targeted at the most appropriate airlines and airports and implemented in a coordinated manner (across the EU) to ensure their effectiveness,” the spokesman said. A new European meeting on the matter is scheduled for Wednesday.

Austria announced on Tuesday its decision to inspect sewage from flights from China.

In Washington, a US diplomatic spokesperson assured that the US requirement to provide travelers from China with a negative Covid-19 test at the country’s borders is based “only on science” and n “only on public health concerns”. “.

“This is one part of the world where we are concerned about transparency,” said Australia’s economy minister, who is implementing similar measures from Thursday.

Asked whether the restrictions were politically motivated, the minister replied, “I don’t see it that way.”

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China’s reports come almost a month after China surprisingly lifted its health restrictions on December 7, leading to an influx of patients in hospitals and Covid victims in crematoriums.

Beijing no longer imposes quarantine on arrivals from abroad, but continues to require a negative PCR test from travelers and has not issued tourist visas for nearly three years.

More than a dozen countries have imposed Covid tests on travelers from China in recent days, raising concerns about a lack of transparency in infection statistics and fearing the emergence of new variants.

“I think we are doing our part by protecting the French and listening to the tests. We will continue to do so,” French Prime Minister Elisabeth Bourne responded in a radio broadcast on Tuesday.

– 100 ambulances per day –

China is currently experiencing its worst outbreak. In Shanghai in particular, two-thirds of the population may have contracted Covid in recent weeks, a senior official at one of the city’s major hospitals estimated on Tuesday.

At Dongren Hospital in Shanghai, China on January 3, 2023 (AFP / Hector Rethamol)

At Dongren Hospital in Shanghai, China on January 3, 2023 (AFP / Hector Rethamol)

China’s economic capital, the city of 25 million people, was placed under strict lockdown for two months starting in April. Many of them were taken to quarantine centers.

Now the Omicron variant is spreading very fast there.

In other major Chinese cities such as Beijing, Tianjin (north), Chongqing (south-west) and Canton (south), health officials believe the peak has already been passed.

Dr Chen, a member of Shanghai’s Covid expert panel, said his hospital was receiving 1,600 emergency admissions a day – double what it was before restrictions were lifted – 80% of whom were infected with Covid.

– Chinese New Year –

At Dongren Hospital in Shanghai, AFP journalists on Tuesday witnessed emergency treatment outside the building, which was hit by an influx of patients.

The hallways were filled with dozens of elderly patients, lying in beds and with IVs. Some wore oxygen masks.

At Dongren Hospital in Shanghai, China on January 3, 2023 (AFP / Hector Rethamol)

At Dongren Hospital in Shanghai, China on January 3, 2023 (AFP / Hector Rethamol)

As millions of people return to their home provinces to celebrate the Lunar New Year from January 21, the wave of Covid-19 in major cities is expected to hit rural China soon.

In an interview with state television CCTV on Monday, Xiao Yahui, an official at the National Health Commission (NHC), acknowledged that the expected outbreak in rural areas was a “big challenge”.

“What worries us the most is that for the past three years, no one has returned to their province for the Lunar New Year, but this year it will finally be possible,” he said.