China defends its Covid response after WHO, Biden concerns

BEIJING: After US President Joe Biden expressed his concern and the World Health Organization (WHO) said Beijing was underreporting viral deaths, China defended its management of the raging COVID-19 outbreak on Thursday.

In some of the UN agency’s harshest criticisms yet, the WHO’s director for emergencies, Mike Ryan, claimed on Wednesday that Chinese officials were underrepresenting data on a number of fronts.

Following protests, China abandoned its strict COVID rules last month, ending a policy that had protected its 1.4 billion people for three years from the virus.

Mao Ning, a spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry, stated during a routine media conference in Beijing that China has transparently and promptly shared COVID data with the WHO and that the “epidemic situation is controllable” in China.

“Facts have shown that China has always maintained close communication and exchanged pertinent information and data with the WHO in a timely manner, in accordance with the principles of legality, timeliness, openness, and transparency,” Mao added.

China reported one additional COVID death on the mainland on Wednesday, down from five the day before, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths to 5,259 as of this writing.

Ryan argued that Beijing’s definition of COVID-related mortality was excessively restrictive and that China’s statistics underrepresented hospital admissions, patients in intensive care units, and deaths.

A few hours later, US Vice President Joe Biden expressed alarm over China’s response to a COVID outbreak that is overrunning some funeral homes and flooding hospitals.

When we indicate that they haven’t been all that forthcoming, they are “quite sensitive,” Biden told reporters.

Similar worries were expressed by the French health minister, while German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach expressed worry about a new COVID subvariant related to an increase in hospitalizations in the US.

OVERFLOWN HOSPITAL More than a dozen nations have put restrictions on visitors from China, including the United States. On Thursday, Germany announced stricter regulations.

The border between China and its special administrative territory of Hong Kong will reopen on Sunday for the first time in three years, according to China, which has criticized such border controls.

The Hong Kong government announced late on Thursday that ferry services between the city and Macau, the epicenter of gambling, would also start up again on the same day.

Cathay Pacific Airways of Hong Kong announced on Thursday that it would more than treble its number of flights to mainland China.

Later this month, millions of people will travel within China for the Lunar New Year holiday; the WHO has warned that if vaccination rates aren’t raised and other safeguards aren’t taken, this might result in a new wave of infections.

China has downplayed how serious the issue is. According to doctor interviews, the state-run Global Times reported on Wednesday that COVID had peaked in Beijing and other cities.

However, a Reuters witness reported that on Thursday, patients on beds lined the hallways leading to the emergency room and main lobby of a hospital in the Shanghai suburb of Qingpu, the majority of whom were old and several of whom were using oxygen tanks to breathe.

Patients would typically have to wait five hours to be seen, according to a notice board.

Staff declared one elderly patient dead and pinned a letter with the words “respiratory failure” to the body that was lying on the ground.

Police were on guard in front of a neighboring cremation where mourners were waiting to pick up the ashes of loved ones while carrying wreaths.

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