Coronavirus Update: China aims to penalize countries imposing test mandates

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China on Tuesday suspended visas for South Koreans to enter the country for tourism or business in apparent retaliation for South Korea’s COVID-19 testing requirements for Chinese travelers, the Associated Press reported.

No other details were given, although China has threatened to retaliate against countries that require travelers from China to show a negative result for a test taken within the previous 48 hours.

That has not stopped about a dozen countries from following the U.S. in requiring Chinese travelers produce a test after China lifted most of its strict COVID-related restrictions for the first time since the start of the pandemic. The end of those restrictions has resulted in a surge of new cases.

The World Health Organization and several nations have accused China of withholding data on its outbreak. The testing requirements are aimed at identifying potential virus variants carried by travelers.

Separately on Tuesday, the head of the WHO for Europe said the surge of cases in China is not likely to have a big impact on Europe, although he cautioned against complacency.

Hans Kluge told reporters it was “not unreasonable for countries to take precautionary measures to protect their populations” but called for such measures “to be rooted in science, to be proportionate and nondiscriminatory,” as AFP reported.

Tens of thousands of people resumed travels in and out of China after the country lifted almost all of its border restrictions, ending three years of strict pandemic controls. Photo: Tyrone Siu/Reuters

In the U.S., the seven-day average of new cases stood at 67,012 on Monday, according to a New York Times tracker. That’s up 2% from two weeks ago and below the recent peak of 70,508 on Christmas Eve.

The daily average for hospitalizations was up 18% to 47,503. The average for deaths was 467, up 10% from two weeks ago. 

Cases are currently rising in 21 states, along with Guam, Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands. They are led by Florida, where cases are up 90% from two weeks ago. On a per-capita basis, New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island are seeing the highest rates. New York has 37 cases per 100,000 people, New Jersey 35 and Rhode Island 31.

Coronavirus Update: MarketWatch’s daily roundup has been curating and reporting all the latest developments every weekday since the coronavirus pandemic began

Other COVID-19 news you should know about:

• Thailand sent three cabinet ministers to welcome Chinese tourists with flowers and gifts as they arrived Monday at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport after China relaxed travel restrictions, the AP reported. The high-profile event reflected the importance Thailand places on wooing Chinese travelers to help restore its pandemic-battered tourism industry. Before COVID, Chinese visitors accounted for about one-third of all arrivals.

• Moderna Inc. MRNA, +3.14% is considering pricing its COVID vaccine at $110 to $130 per dose, the Wall Street Journal reported. That’s the same price range as mooted by Pfizer Inc. PFE, -2.03% and German partner BioNTech SE BNTX, +3.56% once their vaccine moves to the commercial market. For now, vaccines are being purchased and distributed by the U.S. government.

Getting the flu can increase the risk of getting a second infection, such as strep throat. The Wall Street Journal’s Daniela Hernandez explains the science behind that, plus what it means for the rest of the winter and how we can protect ourselves from the tripledemic. Illustration: David Fang

• India has detected the presence of all the COVID omicron subvariants in the community after testing more than 300 samples since late December, the health ministry said in a statement, Reuters reported. “No mortality or rise in transmission were reported in the areas where these variants were detected,” the ministry said.

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