WHO working with China on Lunar New Year COVID risks, lacks data By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A staff member walks next to bodies in body bags at a funeral home, as coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreaks continue in Shanghai, China, January 4, 2023. REUTERS/Staff

By Jennifer Rigby and Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber

GENEVA (Reuters) -China is working with the World Health Organization to manage the risks of COVID-19 surging again as people travel for Lunar New Year celebrations, but the response continues to be challenged by a lack of data, the agency said.

COVID-19 is spreading unchecked in China after the country lifted its zero-COVID policy in December, but the WHO said it still does not have enough information from China to make a full assessment of the dangers of the surge.

That is also an issue in working with China on how to mitigate the risks of travel ahead of the Lunar New Year public holiday, the WHO said. The holiday was known pre-pandemic as the world’s largest annual migration of people.

“We’ve been working with our China colleagues,” said Abdi Rahman Mahamud, director of the WHO’s alert & response coordination department, who said the country has a number of strategies around people travelling from high-risk to low-risk areas as well as around testing and clinics.

“But to understand better we require that data,” he added.

The WHO also said China is still heavily underreporting deaths from COVID-19, although it is now providing more information on its outbreak.

“There are some very important information gaps that we are working with China to fill,” said COVID-19 technical lead, Maria Van Kerkhove.

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

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