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China was today accused of withholding crucial Covid data as fears grew that a surge in cases could lead to the emergence of a new variant.
Israel and Spain joined a growing number of countries that announced they would implement Covid testing for travelers from China, although ministers in the UK continued to resist calls to introduce testing.
The move comes amid fears that Beijing has underreported its cases and withheld samples of the virus, making any new variants unlikely to be seen.
China has reportedly shared less than 1,000 Covid virus samples with the international scientific community in the past month, despite a sharp rise in cases after the easing of lockdown measures.
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Our world in data graph shows daily confirmed COVID cases in China. The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention stopped reporting daily cases last week without giving any reason. It reported about 5,000 cases per day last week and a small number of deaths. However, some estimates suggest that China is actually facing one million cases and 5,000 deaths per day.
Scientists have urged radicals to share more genetic sequences to investigate any signs of a new variant, amid warnings a new mutation could prove more aggressive, and that existing vaccines may be less efficient against it.
Daniel López-Acuña, a former World Health Organization epidemiologist, said he believes Western countries should insist on negative PCR test results before accepting travelers from China, to reduce the risk of transmission.
Even countries with high vaccination rates may be at risk, he said, because existing vaccines may be less potent than a potential new version.
He told the BBC World Service: ‘The high transmission risk in China is the emergence of a new strain that may escape the efficacy of the vaccine and become more aggressive and more virulent.’
Masked passengers check their passports at the check-in desk at Beijing Capital International Airport today
A medical worker attends to a patient at the emergency department of the Ganyu District People’s Hospital in Lianyungang, northeast China, amid the COVID-19 outbreak on December 28.
Image: A Covid patient being carried on a wheelchair at the Tianjin First Center Hospital in Tianjin, northeast China, on December 28
UK may ban travel from China over Covid surge, says Ben Wallace
Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said the situation was ‘under review’, hours after the government suggested it had no plans to follow the example of other countries like the US and bring in mandatory tests for arrivals.
He said: ‘The world is not ready for a new edition. We need to understand that this is a very precarious balance of controlling the virus.
Israel and Spain announced they would require testing for travelers from China, while Malaysia said it would screen all international arrivals for signs of fever.
Other countries, including the US, Italy, India and Japan, have already announced new testing requirements.
The EU and Britain have resisted calls for new restrictions, although Downing Street said it would review the position.
Chinese state media described the new testing requirements as ‘baseless and discriminatory’.
Beijing has insisted that it has shared information and data with the international scientific community.
But experts pointed to the most recent official figures from China, which reported 5,500 new cases and one death a day within the country, compared with international estimates of 9,000 deaths.
China has reported only 5,247 deaths since the pandemic began.
seen by data Wire The newspaper suggested that the Chinese government had uploaded about 940 virus sequences to the global pathogen database Gicide last month, and reported 644,671 cases.
UK-based health data firm Airfinity estimates there have been around 18.6 million cases in China this month and nearly 100,000 deaths.
In the UK, 138,041 cases have been reported in the past month and 7,325 Covid sequences were shared to GiSide, which allows scientists to identify and track emerging variants, including any potentially dangerous new mutations.
Denmark published sequences for 8,723 of the 31,629 reported cases.
If concerns remain that China is under-reporting cases and failing to share data, Western countries could fast-track samples of travelers from China for genome sequencing.
According to daily reported cases, which depend on testing levels, China reported 2 cases per million people in the week to 22 December, while the UK reported 97 and the US 200
Figures from Our World in Data show that 89 per cent of people in China have had a double-jab, while 75 per cent in the UK and 69 per cent in the US have received two doses.
Sequencing data shows that the Omicron sub-variant BF.7 is on the rise in China, causing 35.3 percent of positive cases studied in laboratories
BF.7 is estimated to have an evolutionary advantage of 30 percent, suggesting that it spreads more easily, leaves people infectious for longer, or develops a better immune system than the currently dominant BA.5 strain. Is
Anyone who has had a PCR test – including people who are in hospitals or care homes – may be asked whether they had recently traveled through China.
The move could pave the way for new variants potentially introduced from China to be discovered by scientists in the West.
Meanwhile, one of the government’s top scientific advisers played down fears of a new strain and said strict border restrictions were unlikely to be effective.