BEIJING/SHANGHAI: 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. 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”. “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 to5,259. 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, 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. The French health minister voiced similar fears, while German health minister Karl Lauterbach voiced concern about a new Covid subvariant linked to growing US hospitalisations. The US is one of more than a dozen countries that have imposed restrictions on travellers from China. Germany announced tighter rules on Thursday.
China, which criticised such border controls, said its border with its special administrative region of Hong Kong would reopen on Sunday. Ferry services between the city and the gambling hub of Macau would also resume on the same day, the Hong Kong government announced late on Thursday. Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways said on Thursday it would more than double flights to mainland China. Millions of people will travel within China later this month for the Lunar New Year holiday, an event that the WHO has said could generate another wave of infections.

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