WHO urges China to share more COVID information amid virus outbreak, transparency issues – National

The World Health Organization is urging Chinese health authorities to share more detailed and timely information on the country’s COVID-19 situation amid concerns from a number of countries over Beijing’s lack of transparency.

During a high-level meeting with officials from the Chinese National Health Commission and the National Administration for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday, the WHO was briefed on China’s evolving strategy. to deal with the massive wave of infections that swept the country following the sudden rollback of the country’s strict anti-virus controls.

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The WHO says it has again encouraged China to regularly share specific and real-time data on the epidemiological situation in the country, including sharing more genetic sequence data and information on the impact of the disease. illness, including hospitalizations, intensive care admissions and deaths, according to a statement Friday.

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“WHO has stressed the importance of monitoring and timely release of data to help China and the global community formulate accurate risk assessments and inform effective responses,” the agency said. United Nations in its press release.

The meeting comes as a number of countries have begun imposing stricter COVID-19 measures for passengers arriving from China.

The United States announced new rules on Thursday requiring travelers from China, Hong Kong and Macau to take a COVID-19 test no later than two days before travel and provide a negative test before boarding. their flight. The test applies to anyone aged two and over, including US citizens.

It will apply to people traveling from China via a third country and people connecting via the United States when heading to other destinations.

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Japan, France, Spain, India, South Korea, Taiwan and Italy have also imposed rules requiring negative tests from travelers from China, and France is advising its citizens avoid non-essential travel to China.

France is also reintroducing mask requirements on flights from China to France and has joined Spain in pushing for a Europe-wide testing policy.

The United States said it was imposing its measures because of the spike in infections and what it said was a lack of information, including genomic sequencing of virus strains in China. Authorities in Taiwan and Japan have expressed similar concerns.

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Canada has chosen to take a wait-and-see approach, with the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) saying it « continues to monitor and assess the global epidemiology of COVID-19 » and that the federal government « Will not hesitate to put in place additional safeguards for the health and safety of Canadians should it become necessary.

« PHAC is also closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation in China, including genomic sequencing data and the potential impacts of circulating variants on public health, » said Mark Johnson, spokesperson for Health Canada and from PHAC, in a statement to Global News.

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Johnson noted that information available in China to date on variants currently circulating in that country indicates that a subline of the BA.5 strain known as BF.7 (which is short for BA . has spread to China.

Strain BA.5 is a subvariant of Omicron, which has become the dominant strain circulating in Canada during the summer and early fall.

But in recent weeks, genetic sequencing data on SARS-CoV-2 viruses in Canada show a continued increase in immuno-evasive variants, including BQ.1 and BQ1.1, while the previously dominant BA.5 variants are in decline, according to a statement. from PHAC provided to Global News last week.

The strain of the virus currently circulating in China — known as BF.7 — is estimated to account for only about 5-8% of positive cases in Canada as of Dec. 17, Johnson said.

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And that growth rate is declining.

“Its estimated growth rate has slowed to less than 3% per day compared to other BA.5 sublines,” he said.

« Under current Canadian conditions, Omicron’s BQ lines are more capable of spreading rapidly than BF.7. »

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Currently, Canada has a “level two” travel health notice in place for COVID-19 for travel to all countries, advising travelers to “voluntarily take enhanced health precautions.” This could include using personal protective equipment, getting vaccine boosters, and postponing travel until the risk subsides.

In light of rising COVID-19 cases in China, Canada has issued a separate Level 2 travel health notice for Chinese New Year, which begins January 22 and is typically the busiest travel season. busy in China.

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Meanwhile, concerns from several countries about a lack of robust surveillance and sequencing information on variants spreading in China have raised concerns that a new variant of concern could emerge and change the global pandemic situation. .

Each new infection offers a chance for the coronavirus to mutate, and it is spreading rapidly in China. Scientists can’t say if this means the surge will unleash a new mutant on the world – but they fear it might.

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German health ministry spokesman Sebastian Guelde said authorities there had « no indication that a more dangerous variant has developed during this outbreak in China », but are monitoring the situation.

The European Union is also assessing the situation, although its executive branch has noted that a variant prevalent in China is already active in Europe.

When meeting with Chinese officials on Friday, the WHO called on China to strengthen viral sequencing, clinical management and impact assessment of the virus.

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The UN agency also called on China to engage more closely with WHO-led COVID-19 expert networks and offered its support in these efforts, including support for « communication of risks on vaccination to counter hesitation ».

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The WHO has invited Chinese scientists to present detailed viral sequencing data at a meeting of the agency’s technical advisory group on the evolution of the SARS-CoV-2 virus on January 3.

– with files from the Associated Press

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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