The World Heath Organization was set to meet with Chinese officials Tuesday, where the WHO was expecting China to present detailed data on viral sequencing related to COVID-19. China was also asked to share data on hospitalizations, deaths and vaccinations at Tuesday’s meeting, which is not open to the public or media. The request from the WHO is the latest move the organization has taken to get a “more realistic picture” about the current spread of COVID-19 in China.
“The WHO is very concerned over the evolving situation in China, with increasing reports of severe disease,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said last month. “In order to make a comprehensive risk assessment of the situation on the ground, WHO needs more detailed information on disease severity, hospital admissions and requirements for ICU support.”
Cases and hospitalizations are on the rise in China after the country lifted its “zero-COVID” curbs last month. The extent of the COVID-19 surge is unclear, with a Dutch virologist on the WHO committee calling some of the data out of China “not very credible.”
“It is in the interests of China itself to come forward with more reliable information,” Professor Marion Koopmans told Reuters ahead of the meeting. “Right now, what we are getting is very patchy, but that has been the reality in other parts of the world as well.”
China state media downplayed the surge ahead of the meeting, citing Chinese experts as saying the illness caused by the virus was relatively mild for most people. The country’s foreign ministry also blasted travel entry curbs that have been placed by some countries on Chinese travelers in recent weeks.
“The entry restrictions adopted by some countries targeting China lacks scientific basis and some excessive practices are even more unacceptable,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said Tuesday. “We are firmly opposed to attempts to manipulate the COVID-19 measures for political purposes and will take countermeasures based on the principle of reciprocity.”
Reuters contributed to this report.