US weighs restrictions for Chinese travellers amid COVID surge

US officials express concern over lack of transparency about China’s rising COVID cases.

The United States is considering entry restrictions for travellers from China, as officials express concern about a lack of transparency about the country’s biggest COVID-19 outbreak.

“There are mounting concerns in the international community on the ongoing COVID-19 surges in China and the lack of transparent data, including viral genomic sequence data, being reported from the PRC,” US officials said on Tuesday, local time, referring to the People’s Republic of China.

The lack of genomic data makes it “increasingly difficult for public health officials to ensure that they will be able to identify any potential new variants and take prompt measures to reduce the spread,” the US officials said.

The comments come after Japan, India and Malaysia stepped up measures for arrivals from China, citing surging cases.

Infections have surged across China following the unwinding of its ultra-strict “zero-COVID” policy, prompting US officials to express concern at the potential for new variants to be unleashed.

On Monday, Beijing said it would scrap mandatory COVID quarantine for overseas arrivals from January 8, prompting many in China to rush to plan trips abroad.

Beijing authorities have acknowledged the outbreak is “impossible” to track and have done away with much-maligned case tallies, in addition to narrowing the criteria by which COVID fatalities are counted.

While authorities have officially reported just a handful of COVID deaths in recent weeks, hospitals and funeral homes in China have been overwhelmed as the virus spreads largely unchecked across the country of 1.4 billion people.

Beijing’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday that countries should uphold “scientific and appropriate” disease controls that “should not affect normal personnel exchanges”.

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