China retaliates against South Korea’s COVID restrictions, says outbreaks surpassed peaks

China retaliates against South Korea's COVID restrictions, says outbreaks surpassed peaks
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  • Chinese embassy denounces South Korea’s “discriminatory” border rules
  • Some cities say the peak of COVID infections was last month
  • Chinese state media criticizes Pfizer over the price of Paxlovid

BEIJING, Jan 10 (Reuters) – Beijing retaliated on Tuesday against South Korea’s COVID-19 restrictions on travelers from China, as state media further downplayed the severity of the outbreak in the last major economy to reopen. its borders after three years of isolation.

China abandoned mandatory quarantines for arrivals and allowed travel to resume across its border with Hong Kong on Sunday, removing the last major restrictions under the “zero-COVID” regime that it began abruptly dismantling in early December after historic protests against restrictions.

But the virus is spreading unchecked among its 1.4 billion people and concerns about the scale and impact of its outbreak have prompted South Korea, the United States and other countries to require negative COVID tests for travelers from China.

Although China imposes similar testing requirements for all arrivals, Foreign Minister Wang Wenbin told reporters Tuesday that the entry restrictions for Chinese travelers were “discriminatory.”

“We will take reciprocal measures,” Wang said, without elaborating.

The Chinese embassy in South Korea has suspended the issuance of short-term visas for visitors from South Korea, he said Tuesday, the first retaliatory move against nations imposing COVID-19 restrictions on travelers from China.

The embassy will adjust the policy subject to the lifting of South Korea’s “discriminatory entry restrictions” against China, it said on its official WeChat account.

kyodo News Agency, Citing multiple travel industry sources, he said China has told travel agencies that it has stopped issuing new visas in Japan.

An AFP journalist tweeted that the Chinese embassy in Japan issued a statement on Tuesday confirming the restrictions, but removed it from its website within minutes.

A member of the Chinese embassy in Japan told Reuters they had nothing to announce on the matter. When asked about the Twitter reference, he said there was no new information now.

With the virus on the loose, China has stopped publishing daily infection counts. It has been reporting five or fewer deaths a day since the U-turn policy, figures that have been disputed by the World Health Organization and are inconsistent with the growing demand for funeral reports.

Some governments have raised concerns about the transparency of the Beijing data, as international experts predict at least 1 million deaths in China this year. Washington has also expressed concern about potential future mutations of the virus.

China dismisses criticism of its data as politically motivated attempts to smear its “success” in handling the pandemic, saying any future mutations are likely to be more infectious but less harmful.

“Since the outbreak, China has been open and transparent,” said Wang of the Foreign Ministry.

But as infections rise in China’s vast rural hinterland, many, including elderly victims, are just not bothering to get tested.


State media downplayed the severity of the outbreak.

An article in Health Times, a publication run by People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the ruling Communist Party, quoted several officials as saying that infections have fallen in the capital Beijing and in several Chinese provinces.

Officials in southern tech powerhouse Shenzhen announced Tuesday that the city had also passed its peak.

Kan Quan, director of the Henan Province Epidemic Prevention and Control Office, said nearly 90% of people in the central province of 100 million people had been infected as of January 1. 6.

In the eastern province of Jiangsu, the peak was reached on December 21. On February 22, while in the neighboring province of Zheijiang “the first wave of infections has passed without problems,” authorities said.

Financial markets saw the latest border restrictions as a mere inconvenience, and the yuan hit a nearly five-month high.

Although daily flights in and out of China are still at a tenth of pre-COVID-19 levels, businesses across Asia, from shop owners in South Korea and Japan to Thai tour bus operators and groups Kpop celebrated the prospect of more Chinese tourists.

Chinese shoppers spent $250 billion a year abroad before COVID.


Border rules were not the only COVID conflict brewing in China.

State media lashed out at Pfizer Inc. (PFE.N) about the price of your COVID Paxlovid treatment.

β€œIt is not a secret that the US capital forces have already amassed a great fortune in the world through the sale of vaccines and medicines, and the US government has been coordinating all along,” said the nationalist tabloid Global Times in an editorial.

Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla said Monday that the company was in talks with Chinese authorities about the price of Paxlovid, but not about the license of a generic version in China.

China’s abrupt reversal in COVID policies has caught many hospitals ill-equipped, while smaller cities have been left scrambling to get basic fever medicines.

Yu Weishi, chairman of Youcare Pharmaceutical Group, told Reuters his firm has increased production of its anti-fever medicines fivefold to one million boxes a day in the past month.

Reports from the Beijing and Shanghai offices; Additional reporting by Rocky Swift and Maki Shiraki in Tokyo; Written by Marius Zaharia and Greg Torode; Edited by Raju Gopalakrishnan

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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