WHO asks China to regularly share data on COVID-19 situation

Representational image. AP

United Nations: The World Health Organization has again urged China to regularly share specific and real-time data on the COVID-19 situation in the country, amid a surge in coronavirus cases after Beijing relaxed its strict “zero-COVID” policy.

The global health agency has asked Chinese health officials to share data on genetic sequencing, hospitalisations, deaths and vaccinations.

A high-level meeting took place between officials from WHO and China on the current surge in COVID-19 cases to seek further information on the situation, and to offer WHO’s expertise and further support, a WHO statement said on Friday.

WHO again asked for regular sharing of specific and real-time data on the epidemiological situation including more genetic sequencing data, data on disease impact including hospitalisations, ICU admissions and deaths and data on vaccinations delivered and vaccination status, especially in vulnerable people and those over 60 years old, it added.

WHO reiterated the importance of vaccination and booster doses to protect against severe disease and death for people at higher risk.

The statement said that high-level officials from China’s National Health Commission and the National Disease Control and Prevention Administration briefed WHO on China’s evolving strategy and actions in the areas of epidemiology, monitoring of variants, vaccination, clinical care, communication and R&D.

WHO called on China to strengthen viral sequencing, clinical management, and impact assessment, and expressed willingness to provide support on these areas, as well as on risk communications on vaccination to counter hesitancy.

Chinese scientists are invited to engage more closely in WHO-led COVID-19 expert networks including the COVID-19 clinical management network, the WHO statement said.

It said that the WHO has invited Chinese scientists to present detailed data on viral sequencing at a meeting of the Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution on 3 January.

“WHO stressed the importance of monitoring and the timely publication of data to help China and the global community to formulate accurate risk assessments and to inform effective responses, it said.

Millions of Chinese have been infected in the current surge of Omicron variants in the country, causing an alarm over the world.

China’s health officials on Friday discussed with the WHO experts the current surge of the COVID-19 cases in the country after the organisation’s chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus asked Beijing to share more information.

The WHO tweeted on Thursday: As I said at our most recent press conference — in order to make a comprehensive risk assessment of the COVID-19 situation on the ground in China, @WHO needs more detailed information.” He also defended various countries, including India, to take protective measures against people arriving from China to prevent the virus from spreading.

In the absence of comprehensive information from China, it is understandable that countries around the world are acting in ways that they believe may protect their populations,” he said.

India has joined the United States, Japan, Italy and Taiwan in imposing mandatory COVID tests for travellers from China, amid a COVID-19 surge there after authorities relaxed strict “zero-COVID” rules.

We continue to call on China to share data and all hypotheses about this pandemic remain on the table,” the WHO chief said, referring to the origin of the coronavirus which was first reported in Wuhan city of China in late 2019.

His remarks came against the backdrop of China criticising the countermeasures taken by various countries including the US, Japan and India requiring travellers from China to undergo the required tests.

Official COVID-19 figures from China have become unreliable as less testing is being done across the country following the recent easing of the “zero-COVID” policy.

Beijing’s decision to lift all travel restrictions, including scrapping of quarantine for inbound travellers from 8 January ahead of Chinese New Year, has caused alarm around the world.

Millions of Chinese are expected to travel to various parts of the world for holiday during this period.

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