China pledges ‘final victory’ over COVID

Global health officials tried to determine the facts of China’s raging COVID-19 outbreak and how to prevent a further spread as the Communist Party’s mouthpiece newspaper on Wednesday rallied citizens for a “final victory” over the virus.

China’s axing of its stringent virus curbs last month has unleashed COVID on a 1.4 billion population that has little natural immunity having been shielded from the virus since it emerged in the central city of Wuhan three years ago.

Many funeral homes and hospitals say they are overwhelmed, and international health experts predict at least one million deaths in China this year, but China has reported five or fewer deaths a day since the policy U-turn.

That is totally ridiculous,” a 66-year-old Beijing resident who only gave his last name Zhang said of the official death toll.

“Four of my close relatives died. That’s only from one family. I hope the government will be honest with the people and the rest of the world about what’s really happened here.”

China has rejected foreign skepticism of its statistics as politically motivated attempts to smear its achievements in fighting the virus.

“China and the Chinese people will surely win the final victory against the epidemic,” the People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s official newspaper, said in an editorial, rebutting criticism of China’s three years of isolation, lockdowns and testing that triggered historic protests late last year.

Having lifted the restrictions, Beijing is hitting back against some countries demanding that visitors from China show pre-departure COVID tests, saying the rules were unreasonable and lacked a scientific basis.

Japan became the latest country to require a pre-boarding negative test, joining the United States, Australia and others. European Union health officials are due to meet on Wednesday to discuss a coordinated response to China travel.

Willie Walsh, head of the world’s biggest airline association IATA, also criticized what he described as knee-jerk” measures that he said had proven to be ineffective in preventing the spread of COVID.

China, which has been largely shut off from the world since the pandemic began, will stop requiring inbound travelers to quarantine from Jan. 8. But it will still demand that arriving passengers get tested before they begin their journeys.