BEIJING: China defended on Thursday its handling of its raging Covid-19 outbreak after US President Joe Biden voiced concern and the WHO said Beijing was under-reporting virus deaths.
The WHO’s emergencies director, Mike Ryan, said on Wednesday that Chinese officials were under-representing data on several fronts, some of the UN agency’s most critical remarks to date.
China scrapped its stringent Covid controls last month after protests against them, abandoning a policy that had shielded its 1.4 billion population from the virus for three years.
China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told a regular media briefing in Beijing that China had transparently and quickly shared Covid data with the WHO and said China’s “epidemic situation is controllable”.
Over a dozen countries impose travel restrictions
“Facts have proved that China has always, in accordance with the principles of legality, timeliness, openness and transparency, maintained close communication and shared relevant information and data with the WHO in a timely manner,” Mao said.
China reported one new Covid death in the mainland for Wednesday, compared with five a day earlier, bringing its official death toll to 5,259.
Ryan said China’s numbers under-represented hospital admissions, intensive care unit patients and deaths, and said Beijing’s definition of Covid-related deaths was too narrow.
Hours later, US President Joe Biden raised concern about China’s handling of a Covid outbreak that is filling hospitals and overwhelming some funeral homes.
“They’re very sensitive … when we suggest they haven’t been that forthcoming,” Biden told reporters.
More than a dozen countries have slapped fresh travel regulations on travellers from China, as the world’s most populous nation faces a surge in Covid cases following its decision to relax strict virus restrictions.
From Thursday, the United States requires negative Covid tests taken within two days of departure for all entries from China.
Published in Dawn, january 6th, 2023