More than a dozen countries and territories have imposed restrictions on travelers from China amid a surge in COVID-19 cases, with Australia and Canada demanding negative test results for all passengers from mainland China, Hong Kong and Macao.

The latest curbs were announced on Sunday as COVID-19 overwhelmed hospitals and funeral homes across China.

Global health experts say the virus causing COVID-19 is likely infecting millions of people a day after Beijing dismantled its “zero-COVID” policy of strict lockdowns and mass testing last month. The National Health Commission has also stopped publishing daily figures on infections and deaths.

Australian Health Minister Mark Butler on Sunday cited Beijing’s “lack of comprehensive information” on COVID-19 cases as the reason behind the travel requirement, which takes effect on January 5.

The move will “protect Australia from the risk of potential new emerging variants,” he said.

The Canadian government also cited “the limited available epidemiological and viral genomic sequence data” on recent COVID-19 cases in China due to the negative test demand.

“These planned health measures will apply to air travelers regardless of nationality and vaccination status,” the government said in a press release. “They are temporary measures, in effect for 30 days, that will be reviewed as more data and evidence become available.”

In recent days, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain, India, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan have also imposed a negative result or test on arrival on travelers from China. Malaysia said it will screen all inbound travelers, including from China, for fever, while the Philippines said it will increase surveillance for all respiratory symptoms in passengers arriving from China.

Morocco went a step further and on Saturday announced a ban on all arrivals from China, citing the need to prevent “a new wave of infections” and “all its consequences”.

The World Health Organization has precautions “understandable” in the face of the lack of information and urged Beijing share more data on genetic sequencing, as well as figures on hospital admissions, deaths and vaccinations.

But the European chapter of the International Airports Council – which represents more than 500 airports in 55 European countries – said the restrictions were not justified or risk-based.

European countries will meet next week to discuss a joint response to the issue, with new EU president Sweden saying it was “looking for a common policy across the EU when it comes to introducing potential entry restrictions” .

In response to the outbreak, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen said on Sunday that she is “ready to provide necessary assistance based on humanitarian concerns” but did not specify what kind of assistance could be provided to Beijing, which is the self-governing island. a separate province.

In his televised New Year’s address, Chinese President Xi Jinping hit an optimistic note.

“The prevention and control of epidemics is entering a new phase… Everyone is working resolutely, and the light of hope is right before us,” Xi said in a speech broadcast on state media on Saturday.

It was the second time Xi had commented on the outbreak this week.

On Monday, he called for measures to “effectively protect people’s lives”.

UK-based health data company Airfinity said on Thursday its models indicate about 1.8 million daily COVID-19 infections and 11,000 deaths per day in China. It said the model was based on data from Chinese provinces before the suspension of publication of official figures, as well as case growth rates from other COVID-zero countries and territories when they lifted restrictions, such as Japan and Hong Kong.

Airfinity said it expected COVID-19 infections to peak twice in China in the coming months, the first on January 13 with 3.7 million cases per day. The company predicts that the number of deaths will peak at about 25,000 per day on January 23.

A second peak will occur on March 3, with daily cases likely to reach 4.2 million a day, Airfinity said.

This later wave will have a greater impact on rural areas, it added.

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