The US, Canada, Japan and France are among more than a dozen countries that have restricted travelers from China.

China called the assembly international restrictions for travelers of its territory “unacceptable” after more than a dozen countries put up new coronavirus sidewalks for visitors from the world’s most populous nation.

The United States, Canada, Japan and France are among countries urging all travelers from China to provide negative COVID-19 tests prior to arrival as concerns over an increase in cases mount.

China’s surge in infections comes after Beijing abruptly lifted its zero-COVID policy in December, quickly overwhelming hospitals and crematoriums.

Yet Beijing has pushed forward with a much-anticipated reopening, announcing an end to mandatory quarantine on arrival last week, prompting Chinese people to plan trips abroad.

“Some countries have introduced entry restrictions targeting only Chinese travelers,” said Mao Ning, spokesman for the foreign ministry, at a regular briefing on Tuesday.

“This has no scientific basis and some practices are unacceptable,” she added, warning that China could “take countermeasures based on the principle of reciprocity”.

Airport staff wait for passengers arriving from China for a COVID-19 testing area at Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport, north of Paris, Sunday, January 1, 2023. France says it will require negative COVID-19 tests from all passengers arriving from China and urges French citizens to avoid non-essential travel to China.  (AP Photo/Aurelien Morissard)
Airport staff will wait for passengers arriving from China at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport on January 1, 2023 [Aurelien Morissard/AP Photo]

However, when asked about China’s response, French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne defended the new rules.

“I think we are doing our duty by asking for tests,” Borne told franceinfo radio. “We’ll keep doing it.”

The imposed rules affect all travelers coming from China, not just Chinese nationals, while Beijing continues to restrict incoming visitors and does not issue visas for tourists or international students.

Countries, including the US, have also cited Beijing’s lack of transparency on infection data and the risk of new variants as reasons for restricting travellers.

China has recorded just 22 COVID deaths since December and has dramatically narrowed the criteria for classifying such deaths, meaning Beijing’s own statistics on the unprecedented surge are now widely regarded as not reflecting reality.

Virus overwhelms Shanghai

As health workers across the country battle a surge in cases, a senior doctor at one of Shanghai’s top hospitals said 70 percent of the megacity’s population may now be infected with COVID-19, state media reported Tuesday.

Chen Erzhen, vice president of Ruijin Hospital and a member of Shanghai’s COVID Advisory Panel, estimated that the majority of the city’s 25 million people may be infected.

“Now the spread of the epidemic in Shanghai is very widespread and may have reached 70 percent of the population, which is 20 to 30 times more than [in April and May]”, he told Jiangdong Studio, owned by People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the communist party.

An elderly patient is pushed down a hallway of the emergency room of a hospital in Beijing on Saturday, December 31, 2022.  China is on a bumpy road back to normal life as schools, malls and restaurants fill up again with the easing of COVID-19 restrictions.  The abrupt end to testing and other measures came as hospitals were flooded with feverish, wheezing COVID-19 patients
An elderly patient is pushed down an emergency room corridor in a Beijing hospital [Ng Han Guan/AP Photo]

In other major cities, including Beijing, Tianjin, Chongqing and Guangzhou, Chinese health officials have suggested the surge has already peaked.

Concerns have also been raised about near-term growth prospects in the world’s second-largest economy, causing volatility in global financial markets.

Data on Tuesday showed Chinese factory activity contracted at a faster pace in December.

Last month, shipments from Foxconn’s iPhone factory in Zhengzhou, disrupted by employee departures and unrest amid a COVID outbreak, made up 90 percent of the company’s original plans.

A “forest fire” of infections in China in the coming months is likely to hurt the economy this year and drag down global growth, International Monetary Fund head Kristalina Georgieva said.

“China is entering the most dangerous weeks of the pandemic,” Capital Economics analysts warned.

Mobility data suggested economic activity across the country was under pressure and likely to remain so until infections eased, they added.

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