China claims Covid wave is ‘coming to an end’ as tourism and factory activity rebound

China’s wave of Covid is “coming to an end”, health officials have claimed, saying there had been no sign of a new surge from the lunar new year holiday period, despite a big increase in travel compared to last year. Government figures released on Tuesday showed big rises in tourism and hospitality activity compared to the same time last year. Factory activity has also rebounded for the first time in four months, an early sign of economic return after the country reported its slowest growth in about half a century…

‘It was all for nothing’: Chinese count cost of Xi’s snap decision to let Covid rip

When Sunny* thinks back to March last year, she laughs ruefully at the ordeal. The 19-year-old Shanghai student spent that month locked in her dormitory, unable to shop for essentials or wash clothes, even banned from showering for two weeks over Covid fears. In April, the entire city locked down. It was the beginning of the chaos of 2022, as local Chinese authorities desperately tried to follow President Xi Jinping’s zero-Covid decree while facing the most virulent strain of the virus yet: Omicron. “Everyone was panicking, no one was ready,”…

China claims Covid wave has peaked with severe cases, deaths falling fast

China’s health authorities have said the Covid wave is past its peak, with rapid decline in both severe cases and deaths in hospitals, but experts remain wary of the government’s official data. According to China’s Center for Disease Control (CDC), the number of critically ill patients in hospital peaked in the first week of January, then rapidly declined by more than 70%. The number of deaths also reached its highest level that week, the data said. Prof Chi Chun-huei, director of the centre for global health at Oregon University, said…

Chinese flock to Hong Kong to get private Covid booster shots

Private services offering Chinese travellers access to mRNA vaccines are attracting droves of mainlanders to Hong Kong and Macau seeking a booster shot that their government has refused to approve. As part of its dismantling of the country’s zero-Covid policy last month, China’s government also lifted quarantine and other border restrictions. It prompted a wave of interest in overseas travel, particularly for the upcoming lunar new year holiday later this month. However, there also appears to be a large contingent chasing the mRNA bivalent vaccines. Throughout the pandemic the Chinese…

China isn’t following the science in dealing with its Covid outbreak | Letters

There has been a desire around the world to shield political decisions with science, so I understand the basic logic of the remarks by the Chinese ambassador to the UK (In China, here is what we want the west to know about our Covid response, 30 December). Politics is about the allocation of resources, however, and science always has to operate within a political framework, so it is not the case that decisions have been made on a scientific basis only. That said, from a strictly public health point of…

EU to require travellers from China to take pre-departure Covid tests

The European Union is expected to require all travellers from China to take pre-departure Covid tests in response to surging levels of the virus, after Beijing hastily abandoned strict controls. France, Italy and Spain already require pre-departure tests on travellers from China and have been urging other EU member states to follow suit. EU officials meeting later on Wednesday in the “integrated political crisis response” format are expected to issue a recommendation of mandatory testing, despite warnings from Beijing of retaliation. “The overwhelming majority of countries are in favour of…

The Guardian view on China’s Covid crisis: zero preparation | Editorial

China’s citizens know this winter is a deadly one. But they do not know how deadly. According to leaked information, health officials estimated that about 250 million people – 18% of the population – were infected with Covid in the first 20 days of December and that as of Christmas Eve, the rate of infection was still rising. Yet the authorities’ public pronouncements have been extremely limited and clearly misleading or downright ludicrous. The virus rips through the country and bodies wait days for collection – but on Monday, China…

China is now the epicentre of Covid. The world should be watching – and testing | Devi Sridhar

After almost three years of trying to wholly eliminate the virus that causes Covid-19 from within its borders, the Chinese government has abruptly changed course. Now, the country is attempting to “live with Covid-19”. Testing is no longer required, and numbers of officially reported Covid-19 cases are at odds with scientific estimates of the situation. While official estimates suggest there are 4,000 cases of Covid a day, scientists estimate the number is more like 1 million. Official death tolls are similarly unreliable. The lack of transparency from the Chinese government,…

Labor flags wastewater tests on inbound planes as mandatory Covid checks for China arrivals resumes

Australia is planning to introduce wastewater testing for incoming flights in an attempt to gather more information about the possible entry of new Covid variants. The health minister, Mark Butler, announced the measure on Monday in a round of interviews defending the decision to reimpose pre-flight Covid testing for passengers from China as necessary because of a “absence of comprehensive information” about the disease in China. The announcement on Sunday has already prompted calls to expand pre-flight testing, with the independent MP Monique Ryan questioning if it was now “time…

China’s President Xi battles to save face as Covid U-turn weakens his grip on power

China’s leader Xi Jinping told his country it stands on “the right side of history” in a new year address on Saturday, but experts have warned that the president starts 2023 diminished by his chaotic U-turn on Covid strategy. He may struggle to deflect blame for the human and economic costs of zero-Covid’s failure, and control the national narrative, even if public signs of dissent are crushed. Officially, China has registered just over 5,200 deaths from Covid, but there is a yawning gap between the picture presented by the usually…