Covid news - live: UK ‘not prepared for new wave’ as XBB.1.5 cases soar

The UK is not prepared for another Covid wave, experts are warning, as the spread of “highly infectious” subvariant XBB.1.5 continues in the UK.

University of Warwick virologist Professor Lawrence Young told The Independent that the UK is not at all prepared for another wave if the highly transmissible sub variant continues to spread reapidly.

People have been urged to wear masks and remain at home if feeling unwell as the new variant coronavirus XBB.1.5 has led to concerns about the rise in Covid-19 cases.

The XBB.1.5 is the highly transmissible version of Covid that caused cases to surge in the UK last winter. The variant is thought to constitute at least 4 per cent of Covid viruses being sequenced.

People arriving from China into Britain have been asked to present a negative Covid test before entry. However, a Cabinet minister announced that travellers testing positive for coronavirus after arriving from China will not be forced to quarantine.

The UK Department for Health and Social Care said China had been slapped with the new rules because of “a lack of comprehensive health information”, as Chinese state media continue to downplay the severity of the current outbreak.

Key Points

  • China hits out at ‘unacceptable’ Covid restrictions imposed on its travellers

  • 70% of Chinese megacity infected with Covid, doctor says

  • Is Omicron variant XBB.1.5 fuel spreading rapidly in the UK?

  • China slapped with new entry rules due to ‘lack of comprehensive health information’

Thursday 5 January 2023 15:57 , Matt Mathers

We’re pausing our updates on the Covid pandemic for today.

Join us again soon for the latest news as travel restrictions return amid rising cases in China.

Thanks for reading and have a good rest of afternoon.

Covid travel restrictions return – the new rules explained

Thursday 5 January 2023 15:36 , Matt Mathers

Covid travel restrictions are back. Every traveller flying from mainland China to England must provide a negative test result before being allowed on the plane.

In addition travellers flying direct from China to Heathrow may be invited to take a second test on arrival. The government says as many as 20 per cent of arriving passengers could be checked, though they are able to decline the invitation.

The government announced the measures a day after saying there were no plans to reintroduce Covid testing.

Simon Calder, our travel correspondent, reports:

Covid travel restrictions return – the new rules explained

10 most common Covid symptoms in last month as new variant spreads

Thursday 5 January 2023 15:15 , Matt Mathers

Fears have been raised as new offshoots of the highly-transmissible Omicron variant have caused cases to surge in countries around the world.

Omicron relatives XBB and XBB.1.5 have been reported in several nations, including the UK, leading British health officials to urge the take-up of Covid vaccines and other protections against the virus.

My colleague Emily Atkinson takes a look at some of the most common Covid symptoms.

10 most common Covid symptoms in last month as new variant spreads

Nearly a third with long Covid have had symptoms for two years, figures suggest

Thursday 5 January 2023 14:45 , Matt Mathers

Nearly a third of people with long Covid in the UK are likely to have been suffering the symptoms for two years or more, figures suggest.

Some 645,000 of those with long Covid are estimated to have first tested positive for the virus at least 24 months ago.

This is 30 per cent of everyone likely to have the symptoms at the start of December, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS)

Ian Jones reports:

Nearly a third with long Covid have had symptoms for two years, figures suggest

Biden border speech may extend 'Title 42' to Cuba, Haiti migrants

Thursday 5 January 2023 14:11 , Matt Mathers

The White House is expected to announce on Thursday that the country will extend a Covid pandemic-era program to include expelling people from Nicaragua, Cuba and Haiti who illegally cross into the country from Mexico.

The announcement could come in a border security speech from Joe Biden, the president, on Thursday, but the Democratic president could also announce new, higher quotas for migrants from these countries, sources said.

Mr Biden plans to give a border security-themed speech on Thursday morning, and intends to visit the US-Mexico border next week for the first time since he became president two years ago.

His visit will be in conjunction with a trip to Mexico City next week for talks with the leaders of Mexico and Canada.

German expats in China receive first foreign Covid vaccines

Thursday 5 January 2023 12:40 , Matt Mathers

Germans living in China began receiving the BioNTech Covid vaccine on Thursday, the first such rollout of a foreign coronavirus vaccine in a country that has not otherwise approved the use of non-Chinese vaccines even as infections soar.

Under an agreement reached during a visit to Beijing by chancellor Olaf Scholz in November, Germans aged 12 and older may receive their first dose or a booster of the BioNTech vaccine at a designated international hospital in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenyang, Guangzhou or Chengdu.

Marcus Wellendorf, 59, a documentary film maker, said he had received three doses of Chinese vaccines.

"Especially in the current situation, after China opened up very suddenly, I feel that an additional BioNTech booster is very comforting to have," he told reporters at Beijing United Family Hospital, where 25 people had made bookings to be vaccinated.

Thursday 5 January 2023 12:10 , Matt Mathers

China has defended its Covid policy following criticism from Joe Biden, the US president.

China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told a regular press briefing in Beijing that China had transparently and quickly shared Covid data with the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Mr Biden and other countries - as well as the WHO - have disputed this.

 (AP)
(AP)

Mao said that China’s "epidemic situation is controllable" and that it hoped the WHO would "uphold a scientific, objective, and impartial position".

"Facts have proved that China has always, in accordance with the principles of legality, timeliness, openness and transparency, maintained close communication and shared relevant information and data with the WHO in a timely manner," Mao said.

Hong Kong to allow import of hamsters after year-long Covid ban

Thursday 5 January 2023 11:45 , Matt Mathers

Hong Kong’s government will lift a ban on the import of hamsters in mid-January, almost a year after more than 2,000 of the rodents were culled due to a cluster of Covid cases traced to a pet shop in the financial hub at the start of 2022.

Based on its latest risk assessment, the city’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said on Thursday the restrictions on the commercial importation of hamsters could be lifted.

The government aims to "resume commercial imports of hamsters around mid-January," it said in a statement.

Recap: What do we know about XBB.1.5? subvariant

Thursday 5 January 2023 11:32 , Matt Mathers

The Omicron subvariant, XBB.1.5, is causing concern among scientists after its rapid spread in the United States in December.

My colleague Emily Atkinson takes a closer look at everything we know so far about the new variant:

Germany to require rapid Covid test for travellers from China

Thursday 5 January 2023 11:16 , Matt Mathers

Germany is changing its entry rules for travellers from China and will in future require at least a rapid coronavirus test to enter the country, health minister Karl Lauterbach said on Thursday.

There will also be random checks upon entry for any coronavirus variants as well as expanded monitoring of wastewater, he said in a statement.

The steps are in line with recommendations by European Union government officials released on Wednesday evening.

“Europe has found a joint response to the pandemic situation in China. This is precisely what we as the federal government have been working towards,” said Mr Lauterbach.

Restrictions on travellers from China kick in

Thursday 5 January 2023 10:45 , Matt Mathers

Travellers arriving in England from China will need to produce a negative Covid test from today.

The move was announced last month but kicks in on Thursday amid rising Covid cases in China.

“Tests must have been taken no more than two days before travel,” the Department of Health and Social Care said in a tweet.

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New XBB.1.5 variant will drive next wave of virus in UK, experts warn

Thursday 5 January 2023 10:15 , Matt Mathers

The “highly infectious” XBB.1.5 Covid subvariant will drive the next wave of the virus in the UK and its rapid spread in other countries should be a “wake-up call”, experts have warned.

The strain has caused a surge of cases in the US, with some experts concerned that its mutations could see it trigger a similar spike in the UK by dodging the wall of immunity built up from previous waves and vaccine rollouts.

My colleague Thomas Kingsley reports:

Covid: New XBB.1.5 variant will drive next wave of virus in UK, experts warn

429 Covid deaths in third week of December

Thursday 5 January 2023 10:01 , Matt Mathers

There were 429 deaths involving Covid in the third week (51) of December, official figures show.

In its latest update on Thursday, the Office for National Statistics said 308 of those deaths had this recorded as the “underlying cause of death”.

This was a “greater proportion” when compared with the previous week (50).

China to open border with Hong Kong for first time in 3 years on Sunday

Thursday 5 January 2023 09:45 , Matt Mathers

China will reopen the border with its special administrative region of Hong Kong on Sunday for the first time in three years, as it accelerates the unwinding of stringent Covid rules that have battered its economic growth.

The opening will bring the resumption of quarantine-free travel between the financial hub and the mainland, although it would be done in a "gradual and orderly" way, China’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office said in a notice on Thursday.

People wearing face masks walk through a bazaar outside a commercial office building in Beijing (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
People wearing face masks walk through a bazaar outside a commercial office building in Beijing (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

China is set to reopen to the world on Sunday, welcoming international travellers and returning residents without the need to quarantine for the first time since 2020, even as infections surge after it scrapped its COVID curbs.

Short of imposing a city-wide lockdown, Hong Kong closely followed China’s tough zero-COVID policy until the middle of 2022 when it began to ease some of restrictions.

France says Covid situation in China ‘worrying’

Thursday 5 January 2023 09:15 , Matt Mathers

China’s Covid-19 outbreak is “worrying”, said French health minister Francois Braun, adding that the pressure on France’s hospitals regarding the virus was easing.

“We’re declining considerably, including with regard to people in hospital, but what’s going on in China is worrying”, Mr Braun told France 2 television.

Sweden to require negative tests from travellers entering country from China

Thursday 5 January 2023 08:40 , Matt Mathers

People entering Sweden from China must provide a negative Covid test, it has been announced.

Sweden’s health minister made the announcement on Thursday morning amid a rise in cases in China.

More details to follow shortly.

Germany concerned over new Covid variant

Thursday 5 January 2023 08:10 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Germany’s federal health minister has expressed concern over the new Covid-19 subvariant linked to the growing number of cases in the US.

The highly contagious Omicron XBB.1.5 variant now makes up more than 40 per cent of cases in the US, according to CDC figures.

“Hopefully we get through the winter before such a variant can spread among us,” health minister Karl Lauterbach said in a tweet.

“We are monitoring whether, and to what extent, XBB.1.5 occurs in Germany.”

China reports one Covid death

Thursday 5 January 2023 07:40 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Mainland China on Thursday reported one new Covid-19 death, compared to five deaths a day earlier, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The official death toll now stands at 5,259.

Hong Kong residents rush to get vaccinated

Thursday 5 January 2023 07:10 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Residents in Hong Kong have swarmed clinics to get vaccinated against Covid ahead of the expected reopening of the city’s border with mainland China.

City government centres providing shots produced by BioNTech have in recent days been mostly booked out, with some bookings going up to February. This is in contrast to a few weeks ago when anyone seeking a vaccine could stroll into a nearly empty facility.

“After the opening of the border, I expect there will be more infected people on the streets, I want to reduce my chance of getting infected,” a Hong Kong resident surnamed Wan, 33, who got his fourth shot this week, told Reuters.

NHS fury as patient turns up to A&E complaining of ear wax

Thursday 5 January 2023 06:40 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

A man turned up to an accident and emergency department in the Midlands complaining about ear wax on the day a hospital declared a critical incident, a nurse who works there has said.

Lesley Meaney, a sister at University Hospitals of North Midlands (UNHM), said the patient presented to A&E with “no pain, no discomfort, just eat war wax!”

Earlier on 30 December officials at the trust declared a critical incident, citing “extremely high demand for all of our services.”

Matt Mathers has more.

NHS fury as patient turns up to A&E complaining of ear wax

Meet the parents who carried on homeschooling after Covid

Thursday 5 January 2023 06:10 , Eleanor Sly

When Connor Buss stopped going into school during the Covid pandemic, his father noticed a change.

James Buss’ 13-year-old son struggles with focus and would often get distracted in class. Learning at home, as most pupils did as the virus spread, offered a way around this.

“His marks improved. He didn’t have any distractions around him,” the 39-year-old, from Cambridgeshire, tells The Independent.

Zoe Tidman reports:

Meet the parents who carried on homeschooling after Covid

People urged to wear masks and stay at home if unwell

Thursday 5 January 2023 05:40 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

People have been urged to wear face coverings and remain at home if feeling unwell, as an already crisis-stricken NHS faces down multiple waves of winter illnesses.

With children returning to school at a time when high levels of flu, Covid-19 and scarlet fever are all being reported, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has issued fresh guidance in a bid to minimise the diseases’ spread.

Parents have been urged to keep children at home if they are unwell and have a fever, with adults told to only go out if necessary and wear face coverings if they are ill and avoid visiting vulnerable people.

Andy Gregory reports.

People urged to wear masks and stay at home if unwell as NHS in crisis

What are the Covid rules currently in force in the UK?

Thursday 5 January 2023 05:10 , Eleanor Sly

A new Covid-19 subvariant, XBB.1.5, has revived concern about the spread of the virus in the UK this January.

A relative of Omicron, XBB.1.5 was first detected in the state of New York in October 2022 and already accounts for more than 40 per cent of American cases.

The variant has since been detected in the UK and is thought to constitute at least 4 per cent of Covid viruses being sequenced.

Joe Sommerlad reports:

What are the Covid rules currently in force in the UK?

WHO says China under-reporting Covid data

Thursday 5 January 2023 04:40 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Mike Ryan, the World Health Organisation’s emergencies director, told a media briefing yesterday that current numbers being published from China under-represent hospital admissions, intensive care unit patients and deaths.

Earlier WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he understood why many countries have imposed testing restrictions on passengers coming from China given the lack of information from the Chinese government about the outbreak.“

WHO is concerned about the risk to life in China and has reiterated the importance of vaccination, including booster doses to protect against hospitalisation, severe disease and death,” he said.

10 most common Covid symptoms in last month as new variant spreads

Thursday 5 January 2023 04:10 , Eleanor Sly

Fears have been raised as new offshoots of the highly-transmissible Omicron variant have caused cases to surge in countries around the world.

Omicron relatives XBB and XBB.1.5 have been reported in several nations, including the UK, leading British health officials to urge the take-up of Covid vaccines and other protections against the virus.

On Tuesday, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) advised Britons to stay at home when feeling unwell or wear face coverings when going outside in a bid to stem the risk of a new Covid wave.

Emily Atkinson reports:

10 most common Covid symptoms in last month as new variant spreads

What is XBB Covid? The new Omicron variant leading a surge in cases

Thursday 5 January 2023 03:10 , Eleanor Sly

New Covid strains are sparking fresh health concerns across the globe as the world welcomes 2023.

Descendants of the highly-transmissible Omicron variant - XBB and XBB.1.5 - have seen a surge in cases in many countries over winter.

But what exactly are they?

Watch here:

What is XBB Covid? The new Omicron variant leading a surge in cases

Cold and flu medicine warning issued by pharmacy chiefs

Thursday 5 January 2023 02:10 , Eleanor Sly

Pharmacy leaders have warned about a shortage of cough and cold medicines, with some chemists “struggling to obtain the very basic supplies”.

Throat lozenges, cough mixtures and some painkillers are among the over-the-counter medicines in short supply, according to the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies.

The industry group warned of supply issues of both branded and unbranded medicines to treat seasonal illnesses.

Thomas Kingsley writes:

Cold and flu medicine warning issued by pharmacy chiefs

Is 2023 finally the year this decade gets going for international travellers?

Thursday 5 January 2023 01:10 , Eleanor Sly

Minutes after midnight on 1 January 2020, I cheerfully tweeted that the new decade would be the best in human history for travellers. All the evidence pointed that way.

Since the start of the Jumbo Jet age half a century earlier, things had only got better. Horizons had relentlessly widened, costs had fallen steadily in real terms and safety had improved almost immeasurably.

The travel business is ever-optimistic, and I paid little heed to a foreign news story The Independent had broken the previous afternoon, which began: “Health chiefs in China are investigating an outbreak of a respiratory illness.”

Simon Calder writes:

Is 2023 the year this decade gets going for international travellers? | Simon Calder

Biden concerned over China’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic

Thursday 5 January 2023 00:10 , Eleanor Sly

US President Joe Biden said on Wednesday he was concerned by how China was handling the Covid-19 pandemic.

China’s Covid-19 data is not giving an accurate picture of the situation there.

It apparently under represents the number of hospitalisations and deaths from the disease, a senior official at the World Health Organization said earlier in the day.

23:10 , Eleanor Sly

The UK Health Security Agency’s chief executive Leyla Hannbeck has warned that a lack of government planning has led to pharmacies running out of products.

The CEO said: “For example, with cold and flu, we knew some months ago cases were going up and it was anticipated that there would be higher demand for these products.

“So you would have thought that plans would have been in place in terms of managing this with regards to liaising with manufacturers and getting the products in.

”Not being able to access self-care products in pharmacies is leading to more pressure for the NHS, she added.

“What we are seeing, which is concerning, when people go to pharmacies and try and get hold of the products over the counter, particularly for small children, then people start to stress and panic and what we don’t want to happen is for more people to go to their GP or A&E when the NHS is already under a lot of strain,” Ms Hannbeck added.

“It comes back to a broader issue of our supply chain not functioning properly. “And every time there is demand for something – like with Strep A (which saw a spike in demand for antibiotics) cases were going up in October, and then in early December the government said there were no supply issues – when clearly there were supply issues – and then they had to issue a serious shortage protocol which demonstrates that there actually is a supply issue.

“So it becomes trouble shooting rather than having robust plans to sort problems out.”

Pharmacies struggle to provide basic medicines due to lack of planning

21:17 , Eleanor Sly

The UK Health Security Agency had said that pharmacists are “struggling to obtain the very basic, most common cold and flu medicine.”

Speaking to the PA news agency, chief executive Leyla Hannbeck explained: “This isn’t just the branded medicines, it is also simple things like throat lozenges, cough mixtures or pain killers – particularly the ones that are soluble.

“The demand has been high because this season we’ve seen higher cases of colds and flu and people are obviously trying very hard to look after themselves and making sure that they use the relevant products to manage the symptoms.

“And that has led to a shortage of these products in terms of us not being able to obtain them.”

Ms Hannbeck added: “But this is part of a bigger issue – from HRT to antibiotics to this, we are constantly finding ourselves in a situation when as soon as the demand for something goes up we are struggling with the supply.

“Unfortunately part of that is a lack of planning by officials (at the Department of Health and Social Care) in terms of foreseeing the problems and trying to plan in advance to sort it.”

WHO accuses China of downplaying Covid surge amid ‘risk to life’

20:09 , Eleanor Sly

The World Health Organisation is “concerned about the risk to life in China” it said on Wednesday as it warned that information from Beijing is not giving an accurate picture of the impact of the coronavirus.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said he understood why many countries have imposed testing restrictions on passengers coming from China given the lack of information from the Chinese government about the outbreak.

“WHO is concerned about the risk to life in China and has reiterated the importance of vaccination, including booster doses to protect against hospitalisation, severe disease and death,” he said.

Alastair Jamieson has more:

WHO accuses China of downplaying Covid surge amid ‘risk to life’

UK government ‘lack of planning’ to blame for cough medicine shortage

19:10 , Eleanor Sly

A “lack of planning” from the government is to blame for a shortage of cough and cold medicines, pharmacy leaders have said.

The Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies accused the Government of “being in denial” over problems with the supply chain.

It comes as pharmacists reported shortages of common medicines for colds and flu including throat lozenges, cough mixtures and some pain killers.

The UK Health Security Agency has warned that winter illnesses including flu and Covid-19 continue to circulate at “high levels”.

As a result, officials urged people to keep children with a fever off school and urged unwell adults to wear face masks to stem the spread of infections.

Chief executive Leyla Hannbeck told the PA news agency: “Pharmacists are struggling to obtain the very basic, most common cold and flu medicine.

“This isn’t just the branded medicines, it is also simple things like throat lozenges, cough mixtures or pain killers - particularly the ones that are soluble.

“The demand has been high because this season we’ve seen higher cases of colds and flu and people are obviously trying very hard to look after themselves and making sure that they use the relevant products to manage the symptoms.

“And that has led to a shortage of these products in terms of us not being able to obtain them.”

China Covid data shows no new variant but under-reports deaths, WHO says

18:30 , Eleanor Sly

Data from China shows no new coronavirus variant has been found there, but it also under-represents how many people have died in the country’s rapidly spreading outbreak, World Health Organisation officials said on Wednesday.

Global unease has grown about the accuracy of China’s reporting of an outbreak that has filled hospitals and overwhelmed some funeral homes since Beijing abruptly reversed its “zero Covid” policy.

The UN agency was releasing data provided by the Chinese Center For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a day after WHO officials met Chinese scientists. China has been reporting daily Covid deaths in single figures.

Mike Ryan, the WHO’s emergencies director, told a media briefing that current numbers being published from China under-represented numbers of hospital admissions, ICU admissions and “particularly in terms of death.”

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the UN agency was continuing to seek more rapid and regular data from China on hospitalisations and deaths.

“WHO is concerned about the risk to life in China and has reiterated the importance of vaccination, including booster doses to protect against hospitalisation, severe disease and death,” he said.

Reuters

Failure to support long Covid sufferers could add billions to benefits bill, Rishi Sunak warned

18:15 , Eleanor Sly

The government’s failure to support people with long Covid could be adding billions of pounds a year to the benefits bill, Labour has warned.

Sir Keir Starmer’s party said Rishi Sunak and his ministers had “no plan” to help those suffering from ongoing symptoms, including fatigue, headaches, muscle aches and palpitations.

Worklessness due to long Covid could be costing £3bn a year in sickness benefits, according to Labour analysis shared with The Independent.

Adam Forrest writes:

Failure to help long Covid sufferers could add billions to benefits bill

New Covid subvariant XBB.1.5 is ‘wakeup call’ for UK and behind one in 25 cases

17:05 , Eleanor Sly

A “highly transmissible” Covid strain has emerged and is already behind one in 25 cases in the UK, surveillance data suggests.

The strain, given the moniker XBB.1.5, has caused alarm in the US over its quick spread and a recent rise in hospitalisations. It is behind four in 10 cases in the country, up from two in 10 one week ago.

XBB is a subvariant of the Omicron BA.2 variant, and XBB.1.5 is a subvariant of XBB. It emerged as a “recombinant lineage between the second generation Omicron variants”, Professor Kei Sato wrote in a study by University of Tokyo, Hokkaido University and Kyoto University.

Thomas Kingsley reports:

New Covid subvariant XBB.1.5 is ‘wakeup call’ for UK and behind one in 25 cases

Covid travel restrictions return – the new rules explained

16:35 , Eleanor Sly

Covid travel restrictions are back. Every traveller flying from mainland China to England must provide a negative test result before being allowed on the plane.

In addition travellers flying direct from China to Heathrow may be invited to take a second test on arrival. The government says as many as 20 per cent of arriving passengers could be checked, though they are able to decline the invitation.

The government announced the measures a day after saying there were no plans to reintroduce Covid testing.

Simon Calder writes:

What is XBB Covid? The new Omicron variant that has led to surge in cases

15:57 , Eleanor Sly

New Covid strains are sparking fresh health concerns worldwide as new descendants of the highly-transmissible Omicron variant now reportedly account for 40 per cent of cases in the US.

Omicron relatives XBB and XBB.1.5 have seen a surge in cases in countries across the globe.

It comes as UK-based health experts have suggested that up to 9,000 people are dying from Covid a day in China, where infections have dramatically risen following the country’s end to strict isolation rules.

Emily Atkinson reports:

UK not prepared for further Covid waves

15:04 , Thomas Kingsley

The UK is not prepared for another Covid wave, experts warn, as the spread of “highly infectious” subvariant XBB.1.5 continues in the UK.

The strain has caused a surge of cases in the US, with some experts concerned that its mutations could see it trigger a similar spike in the UK by dodging the wall of immunity built up from previous waves and vaccine roll-outs.

University of Warwick virologist Professor Lawrence Young told The Independent’s Thomas Kingsley that the UK is not at all prepared for another wave if the highly transmissible sub variant continues to spread at a fast pace amid rising rates of flu infection.

“We didn’t have enough public health messaging around the flu jab. We’ve now got a perfect storm of different respiratory infections going around at the moment and that’s inevitably going to result in more pressure on the NHS,” Professor Young said.

“All the information so far shows that whilst this is a very infectious variant and while it can escape the protections from previous vaccination and past infection but there’s no evidence it’s causing more severe disease compared to other Omicron variants but the fact that it’s spreading more and more rapidly, particularly in the US, is very concerning.

“It’s reaching out to more vulnerable people.”

EU offers help, prepares to counter China's Covid crisis

14:00 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

The EU yesterday said it has offered China help to deal with its Covid-19 crisis, including the donation of vaccines, as the bloc seeks to coordinate how authorities should check incoming passengers from China for any new variants.

Several member nations announced individual efforts over the past week. At the same time, the EU's European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control insisted that the situation in China didn't pose an immediate overall threat to health.

“The variants circulating in China are already circulating in the EU, and as such are not challenging for the immune response” of EU citizens, it said in its latest impact study.

Covid-positive China arrivals won’t need to isolate, says minister

13:45 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Arrivals from China who test positive for Covid will not be forced to quarantine, the transport secretary Mark Harper has confirmed.

The senior Tory MP’s comments confirmed details – first revealed by The Independent – that testing will be voluntary for those arriving at Heathrow - the only UK airport with direct flights from China offering tests.

Mr Harper, asked if those who test positive after arriving in the UK will be required to quarantine, told LBC: “No, because what we are doing is we are collecting that information for surveillance purposes.”

Adam Forrest reports.

Covid-positive China arrivals won’t need to isolate, minister confirms

Editorial | The government should declare a national emergency in the NHS

13:25 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

One of the many galling statistics about the NHS crisis is that the number of people who die because of delays in ambulance and emergency care – between 300 and 500 a week – is around the same as current deaths from Covid-19 or cerebrovascular disease (stroke), and 10 times the number who perish in road traffic.

If it weren’t for the danger of hyperbole, it would be right to call the current crisis an epidemic.

Behind the statistics lie heart-rending stories of extremely ill, vulnerable people, often elderly, dying at home or in the back of an ambulance for lack of resolve to deal with the crisis. Although now widespread and taken for granted, this is not normal, even though it is becoming normalised.

Read the editorial here.

Editorial: The government should declare a national emergency in the NHS

How news of ‘mystery illness’ in Wuhan first broke three years ago

12:45 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Three years ago on New Year’s Eve, The Independent broke a story about a “mystery illness” that had struck 30 people in Wuhan, China.

There was limited information about the illness, except that most of those who were sick had visited a seafood market in the city.

Early reports speculated the sickness was similar to the respiratory disease Sars which killed nearly 800 people.

Little did they know, it would be so much worse, resulting in more than 6.6m deaths worldwide.

Maryam Zakir-Hussain writes.

Covid: How news of ‘mystery illness’ in Wuhan first broke

Is UK on the brink of a new Covid wave?

12:25 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Scientists in the US believe XBB.1.5 is at least in part to blame for the rise in hospital admissions in New York.

Whether the subvariant will trigger a new Covid surge in the UK is uncertain, but reports suggest a rise in cases is likely.

There is potential for some respite, however, with medical officials suggesting that the winter outbreaks of influenza and other respiratory viruses could temper the threat of a new, rampant Covid wave.

Read more here.

What is XBB Covid? New Omicron variant that has led to surge in cases

South Korea makes mandatory Coivid test on arrival for China passengers

11:45 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

South Korea yesterday made coronavirus tests on Chinese arrivals mandatory, joining a growing list of countries imposing restrictions amid concerns over a wave of infections.

Travellers from China are required to undergo a PCR test upon arrival. From 5 January, arrivals can submit a negative result from a PCR test taken no more than 48 hours before departure, or a negative rapid antigen test no more than 24 hours before departure.

A total of 2,189 people have arrived from China since 2 January. The 590 test results so far showed that 136 people, or 22.7 per cent, were infected with Covid-19, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.

What is XBB Covid? The new Omicron variant that has led to surge in cases

11:25 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

New Covid variants are sparking fresh health concerns as Omicron relatives XBB and XBB.1.5 have seen a surge in cases in countries worldwide.

It comes as UK-based health experts have suggested that up to 9,000 people are dying from Covid a day in China, where infections have dramatically risen following the country’s end to strict isolation rules.

The surge has prompted the UK and US governments to require all passengers arriving in the respective countries from China from 5 January to return a negative Covid result before travelling.

Maryam Zakir-Hussain has more.

What is XBB Covid? New Omicron variant that has led to surge in cases

China arrivals banned from England without negative Covid test

10:45 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

All travellers coming from China into England will be required to show a negative Covid-19 test before departing from 5 January, Downing Street has confirmed.

No 10 said Rishi Sunak’s government will shortly set out the full details regarding new rules for travellers entering the UK from China and from Hong Kong.

The prime minister’s official spokesman said: “We’re working on the final details of the implementation of the policy, and that includes on Hong Kong, and we will update in due course.”

Adam Forrest reports.

China arrivals need negative Covid test to enter England from 5 January

Airline group slams China Covid travel restrictions

10:25 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

The head of the world's biggest airline trade body IATA has criticised travel restrictions against travellers from China, arguing that such measures had proven to be ineffective in preventing the spread of Covid-19.

"It is extremely disappointing to see this knee-jerk reinstatement of measures that have proven ineffective over the last three years," said director general Willie Walsh.

New Zealand says Covid test not required for Chinese arrivals

09:45 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

The New Zealand government today announced that it would not require travellers from China to produce a negative Covid-19 test.

The Pacific nation’s Covid-19 minister Ayesha Verrall, said in a statement that a public health risk assessment had concluded visitors from China would not contribute significantly to the number of cases in the country.

“There is minimal public health risk to New Zealand,” she said.

China says Covid entry restrictions by countries unreasonable

08:45 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

China on Tuesday hit back at governments who have imposed travelling restrictions on the country by arguing that Covid-19 measures should be "science-based" and warned of possible “countermeasures”.

More than a dozen countries, including the UK and the US, have made it mandatory for travellers from China to show a negative Covid test before arrival.

“Some countries have taken entry restrictions targeting only Chinese travellers,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said.

“This lacks scientific basis and some practices are unacceptable," the spokesperson added.

She reportedly warned that Beijing could take "countermeasures based on the principle of reciprocity”.

Read more here.

China says Covid entry restrictions lack scientific basis and are unreasonable

Chinese national goes missing in South Korea after testing Covid positive

07:45 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

South Korean authorities are trying to track down a Chinese national who tested positive for Covid-19 on arrival but went missing while waiting at a quarantine facility.

The person tested positive after arriving at Incheon International Airport near Seoul yesterday night and was transferred to a nearby hotel to await admission to quarantine.

The missing person has been placed on a wanted list, health official Kim Joo-young, said. The person, who has not been identified, could be subject to up to one year in prison, or 10 million won (£6,539) in fines if convicted of violating the law.

Is Omicron variant XBB.1.5 fuel spreading rapidly in the UK?

07:30 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

New Covid variants are sparking fresh health concerns as Omicron relatives XBB and XBB.1.5 have led to a surge in cases in countries worldwide.

The XBB.1.5 is the highly transmissible version of Covid that caused cases to surge in the UK last winter. The variant, which was first detected around New York state in late October, is behind 40 per cent of all Covid infections in the US.

It is estimated that the XBB.1.5 is spreading more than twice as fast as the BQ.1.1 variant, which is one of the common variants found in the UK, The Guardian reported.

The variant has an unusual mutation known as F486P that is helping it spread at a rapid speed.

The variant has been detected in the UK, with surveillance suggesting it makes up at least 4 per cent of the coronavirus being sequenced

How long can you test positive for Covid?

06:45 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

For nearly three years, the Covid-19 pandemic brought the world to a standstill as the virus spread around the globe.

Cases have begun to rise again, with warnings that Covid will once again put even more pressure on the NHS over this festive period.

The last major spike of the pandemic, while restrictions were still in place, came courtesy of Omicron. The variant spread rapidly around the world after being discovered in southern Africa last November and has since produced a series of sub-variants.

Omicron proved to be less severe but more transmissible than its predecessor Alpha and Delta variants, with total daily case numbers in England rocketing to a then-pandemic-high of 218,724 on 4 January, before gradually falling away, bar a revival inspired by its first sub-variant, BA.2, in March.

Joe Sommerlad has more.

How long can you test positive for Covid and when are you infectious?

EU presses for negative Covid report for China passengers

05:45 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

The EU is moving towards making it mandatory for passengers from China to test negative for Covid-19 in order to enter the bloc nations.

The EU health advisers yesterday agreed on a draft opinion that includes masking recommendations and increased wastewater monitoring and suggests discussing Covid testing.

A strong majority of countries back pre-departure tests, Bloomberg quoted a commission spokesperson as saying.“Unity remains our strongest tool against Covid,” the EU’s health commissioner, Stella Kyriakides, tweeted.

EU ambassadors will meet today to discuss the recommendations.

People urged to wear masks and stay at home if unwell

04:45 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

People have been urged to wear face coverings and remain at home if feeling unwell, as an already crisis-stricken NHS faces down multiple waves of winter illnesses.

With children returning to school at a time when high levels of flu, Covid-19 and scarlet fever are all being reported, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has issued fresh guidance in a bid to minimise the diseases’ spread.

Parents have been urged to keep children at home if they are unwell and have a fever, with adults told to only go out if necessary and wear face coverings if they are ill and avoid visiting vulnerable people.

Andy Gregory reports.

People urged to wear masks and stay at home if unwell as NHS in crisis

China reports five new Covid deaths

03:48 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

China on Wednesday reported five new Covid-19 related deaths, compared with three a day earlier, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The official death toll now stands at 5,258

China state media plays down severity of Covid surge

02:45 , Natalie Crockett

State media in China has played down the severity of a surge of Covid cases on Tuesday as its scientists briefed the World Health Organization.

The global body had invited the scientists to present data on viral sequencing at a technical advisory group meeting and has asked China to share data on hospitalizations, deaths and vaccinations.

A spokesperson said the agency expected a “detailed discussion” about circulating variants in China and globally and it is expected to give an update on Wednesday.

China’s abrupt U-turn on Covid controls as well as the accuracy of its case and mortality data, have come under increasing scrutiny at home and abroad.

China’s foreign ministry labelled travel entry curbs imposed by some countries as “simply unreasonable”, saying they “lacked scientific basis”.

“We are willing to improve communication with the world,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning told reporters in Beijing.

“But ... we are firmly opposed to attempts to manipulate the epidemic prevention and control measures for political purposes.”

Covid travel restrictions return – the new rules explained

01:45 , Natalie Crockett

Covid travel restrictions are back. From 5 January, every traveller flying from mainland China to England will need to provide a negative test result before being allowed on the plane. It is not yet clear what kinds of tests will be acceptable, but the previous policy was to allow lateral flow/rapid antigen tests as well as more reliable and expensive PCR tests.

In addition, travellers flying direct from China to Heathrow may be invited to take a second test on arrival. The government says as many as 20 per cent of arriving passengers will be checked, though they are able to decline the invitation.

The government announced the measures on Friday night – a day after saying there were no plans to reintroduce Covid testing.

Our travel correspondent Simon Calder explains what it all means.

Covid travel restrictions return – the new rules explained

Potential for imported Covid cases from China ‘low’, says European health body

00:45 , Natalie Crockett

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said last week it did not recommend measures on travellers from China.

It said the variants circulating in China were already in the European Union, that EU citizens had relatively high vaccination levels and the potential for imported infections was low compared to daily infections in the EU, with healthcare systems currently coping.

Despite the health body’s stance, most European Union countries favour introducing pre-departure testing for travellers from China, the European Commission said on Tuesday.

“The overwhelming majority of countries are in favour of pre-departure testing,” a Commission spokesman said.

“These measures would need to be targeted at the most appropriate flights and airports and carried out in a coordinated way to ensure their effectiveness,” he said.

The Commission on Tuesday prepared a draft proposal for the talks, which included a recommendation for mask-wearing on flights from China, wastewater monitoring for planes arriving from China, testing at airports and increased EU vigilance on testing and vaccination.

“This will now be revised and adopted based on the input of (EU) Member States,” the Commission spokesman said, adding more talks on the measures would take place at another meeting of EU health officials on Wednesday afternoon.

EU to try again for coordination on China Covid policies

Belgium to test wastewater on planes travelling from Covid-hit China

Tuesday 3 January 2023 23:45 , Natalie Crockett

Belgium will test wastewater from planes arriving from China for new Covid variants as part of new steps to prevent the spread of the virus as infections in China surge, the government announced on Monday.

“This will be an additional monitoring objective to verify that the data we receive from China is accurate,” Steven Van Gucht of the Sciensano national public health institute told Reuters.

Most EU countries back Covid pre-departure testing for flights from China

Tuesday 3 January 2023 22:45 , Natalie Crockett

Most European Union countries favour introducing pre-departure Covid testing for travellers from China, the European Commission said on Tuesday.

The common EU approach emerged after a meeting on Tuesday of the Health Security Committee, an EU advisory body of national health experts from the EU’s 27 countries.

It follows Beijing’s plans to lift travel restrictions on its citizens despite a wave of Covid infections in the country.

70% of Chinese megacity infected with Covid, doctor says

ICYMI: 70 per cent of Shanghai infected with Covid, doctor says

Tuesday 3 January 2023 22:05 , Natalie Crockett

ICYMI: A senior doctor at one of Shanghai’s top hospitals has claimed that 70 per cent of the city’s population has been infected with Covid as China continues to battle a massive surge in cases.

The wave of cases comes after the Communist regime loosened draconian Covid restrictions overnight, overwhelming hospitals and crematoriums.

Chen Erzhen, vice president at Ruijin Hospital in Shanghai and a member of the city’s Covid-19 expert advisory panel, was quoted as saying the majority of the city’s 25 million people may have been infected.

Maroosha Muzaffar has more:

70% of Chinese megacity infected with Covid, doctor says

White House calls for greater ‘transparency’ from China’s Covid data

Tuesday 3 January 2023 20:46 , Andy Gregory

The United States has echoed calls for more transparent Covid data from Beijing, after Washington became one of the first governments to reimpose coronavirus testing requirements on people travelling from China since Xi Jinping’s “zero Covid” policy was eased.

A World Health Organisation committee was holding a virtual, closed-doors meeting with experts at China’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention today, prior to which some scientists present had expressed hopes for a “more realistic picture” of the situation in China (see post at 4:43pm).

A White House national security council official would not comment on Tuesday’s meeting, but echoed WHO calls for more information.

“Public health experts and officials, including in the United States, have been clear it is important that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) share more adequate and transparent epidemiological and viral genomic sequence data,” the official told Reuters.

“This is in the interest of the PRC and the international community and critical to identify any potential variants.”

Fury as Rishi Sunak claims NHS ‘has funding it needs’ to tackle crisis

Tuesday 3 January 2023 20:06 , Andy Gregory

Despite repeated warnings from health leaders that immediate investment is needed to protect patients, Rishi Sunak has said the NHS has all the funding it needs to deal with the crisis engulfing hospitals.

But critics said claims the NHS had enough resources were “an insult to all those suffering in hospital corridors or in the back of ambulances because the Government refused to act sooner.”

Our Whitehall editor Kate Devlin has the report:

Fury as Rishi Sunak claims NHS ‘has funding it needs’ to tackle crisis

People urged to wear masks and stay at home if unwell as pressure on NHS mounts

Tuesday 3 January 2023 19:24 , Andy Gregory

As children return to school at a time when high levels of flu, Covid-19 and scarlet fever are all being reported, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has issued fresh guidance in a bid to minimise the diseases’ spread.

Parents have been urged to keep children at home if they are unwell and have a fever, with adults told to only go out if necessary and wear face coverings if they are ill and avoid visiting vulnerable people, while an already crisis-stricken NHS faces down multiple waves of winter illnesses.

You can read more on the UKHSA’s “back-to-school advice” here:

People urged to wear masks and stay at home if unwell as NHS in crisis

Impact of China’s Covid outbreak on UK ‘likely to be minimal’, says expert

Tuesday 3 January 2023 18:55 , Andy Gregory

Any contribution of China’s coronavirus outbreak to what we see in the UK “is likely to be minimal”, an expert in mathematical statistics has suggested.

On the “complex” issue of surveillance testing, “it is worth noting that the capacity for such surveillance is always limited”, said Professor Thomas House of the University of Manchester.

But he warned that testing travellers needs to be balanced against “potential enhanced surveillance in our health and social care sectors”.

Professor Rowland Kao, an expert on veterinary epidemiology and data science from the University of Edinburgh, said that the surveillance testing could fill an “important gap”, adding: “Testing on arrival is not to prevent spread but to gather data – we know very little about what is happening in China.

“If we and other countries are able to in particular gather viral sequences, this will give us knowledge of what variants might be emerging in China.”

Fixing delays in patients leaving hospital is best way of relieving NHS crisis, says Barclay

Tuesday 3 January 2023 18:27 , Andy Gregory

Devastating delays in ambulance handovers causing issues at hospitals across the country are largely triggered “by those who are fit to leave hospital but delayed in doing so”, the health secretary has said.

Asked why he will not give NHS staff a real-terms pay increase given the record number of vacancies, the Steve Barclay told broadcasters: “Well, because we’re focusing the funding onto the operations backlogs, for example, getting more diagnostic hubs in place, getting the surgical hubs that we are rolling out, getting the backlog from the pandemic reduced, that’s been the key priority.

“That’s where we’ve surged additional funding, but we also recognise the big pressure that we’re seeing played through in terms of ambulance handover delays. It is largely triggered by those who are fit to leave hospital but delayed in doing so and we need to free up that bed capacity and that is often about having the right social care provision to do so.

“That’s why we’ve got an extra £7.5bn going into social care over the next two years, an extra £6.6bn into the NHS to tackle that issue of patients who are fit to leave, who are often delayed in doing so. That in turn is the best way of relieving the pressure on A&E and ensuring that ambulance handover times are reduced.”

Government aiming to ‘get people out of hospital who don’t need to be there’, says Barclay

Tuesday 3 January 2023 17:58 , Andy Gregory

Speaking to broadcasters about the pressures facing A&E units, health secretary Steve Barclay has said the government is focused on “getting the people out of the hospital who don’t need to be there” in order to “speed up the ambulance handover delays”.

“It has always been part of the recognition of the pressures of Covid that that would have an impact on people seeking services during the pandemic, for example, people were more reluctant to go and see their GPs. That in particular has had an impact on cardiovascular risk,” said Mr Barclay.

“There’s other factors as well in terms of the backlogs on operations. Yes, it’s important that we get the ambulances to people quickly, as well but there’s a range of factors that have played in, particularly into those cardiovascular deaths, which is the prime issue when we’re looking at the challenge in terms of excess deaths.

“So, this is something the chief medical officer, the NHS medical director have been looking at very closely.

“It is why we are so focused on getting the people out of the hospital who don’t need to be there because that in turn will speed up the ambulance handover delays and get those ambulances back out responding to calls.”

EU says it has agreed ‘coordinated approach’ to Chinese travel

Tuesday 3 January 2023 17:28 , Andy Gregory

The European Union’s health security committee has announced that member states have agreed on a “coordinated approach” to the changing Covid-19 situation – including implications for increased travel from China.

The committee has worked on targeted measures, including pre-departure testing for travellers from China, increased wastewater monitoring and increased domestic surveillance, said EU health chief Stella Kyriakides.

Over the past week, however, EU nations have reacted unilaterally to the crisis in China, disregarding an earlier commitment to act in unity.

China appears to reject EU offer of vaccine donations

Tuesday 3 January 2023 17:01 , Andy Gregory

China has appeared to reject an offer of Covid variant-adapted vaccine donations from the European Union, announced by the EU executive on Tuesday.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said that the situation was “under control” and medical provisions “in adequate supply” – but added that China was open to “strengthening solidarity and cooperation with the international community” to better meet its pandemic challenges.

However, China can “meet the demand of anyone who wants to be vaccinated”, he said. It was not clear how many vaccines were being offered by the EU.

China has so far insisted on using only Chinese-made vaccines – which are of the inactivated virus type and not based on the Western mRNA technology – for its own population.

Virologist calls for ‘more realistic picture’ from China ahead of WHO meeting

Tuesday 3 January 2023 16:43 , Andy Gregory

Leading scientists advising the World Health Organisation have said they want a “more realistic picture” of the coronavirus situation from China’s top experts at a key meeting today.

The WHO has invited Chinese scientists to a virtual closed meeting with its technical advisory group on viral evolution, to present data on which variants are circulating in the country.

“We want to see a more realistic picture of what is actually going on,” Professor Marion Koopmans, a Dutch virologist who sits on the WHO committee told Reuters, claiming that some of the data from Beijing, such as that on hospitalisation numbers, is “not very credible”.

“It is in the interests of China itself to come forward with more reliable information.”

Prof Koopmans said the committee has only seen a “tiny fraction” of China’s cases sequenced so far – around 700 – and called for the establishment of a global surveillance network to keep track of the virus, saying: “Right now, what we are getting is very patchy, but that has been the reality in other parts of the world as well.”

Mask guidance ‘not compulsory’ and ‘pretty longstanding’, says Downing Street

Tuesday 3 January 2023 16:26 , Andy Gregory

In addition to the government’s fresh restrictions on travel for those leaving China, UK health authorities have urged people to remain at home where possible and wear a face covering outside if they are feeling unwell.

While transport secretary Mark Harper agreed that “wearing a mask is very sensible if you are ill”, Downing Street has stressed that the UK Health Security Agency guidance is “not compulsory”.

“I think that is pretty longstanding advice,” said Rishi Sunak’s official spokesperson. “It remains health advice to the public – it is not mandatory. People need their judgment. Certainly people will continue to use their good sense, having spent a long time dealing ... with these kinds of infectious illnesses.”

Questioned whether it was really “longstanding” advice for people to wear face coverings if they are battling a cold, the No 10 official replied: “That’s not what the advice says.

“What you’ll see is, as has often been the case, if people are ill, they are advised to stay at home. Obviously people can choose to wear a mask if they wish to. It is not compulsory. This is advice from UKHSA rather than government ministers telling people what to do, as we saw during the height of the pandemic before the emergence of vaccines.”

China says Covid entry restrictions by countries lack scientific basis and are unreasonable

Tuesday 3 January 2023 16:00 , Emily Atkinson

China on Tuesday hit back at governments who have imposed travelling restrictions on the country by arguing that Covid-19 measures should be “science-based” and warned of possible “countermeasures”.

More than a dozen countries, including the UK and the US, have made it mandatory for travellers from China to show a negative Covid test before arrival. Morocco has imposed a complete ban on people arriving from China over the monumental rise in coronavirus cases plaguing the country.

Some federal governments have cited Beijing’s lack of transparency around infection data and the risk of new variants as the reason behind new regulations.

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar reports:

China says Covid entry restrictions lack scientific basis and are unreasonable

China slapped with new entry rules due to ‘lack of comprehensive health information’, says No 10

Tuesday 3 January 2023 15:55 , Emily Atkinson

Downing Street has rejected any suggestion that the new rules for Chinese travellers could signal a wider change for visitors travelling to the UK from countries with high rates of Covid.

The PM’s official spokesman said: “A part of the reason for this was because of a lack of comprehensive health information being shared.

“We’re working with the Chinese government to encourage them - we’re not alone in this - to get more information from them.”

China hits out at ‘unacceptable’ Covid restrictions imposed on its travellers

Tuesday 3 January 2023 15:50 , Emily Atkinson

Beijing has condemned the “unacceptable” introduction of Covid testing on passengers arriving from China to several countries.

Chinese officials said the entry restrictions “lack scientific basis” and threatened retaliatory action.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said: “We are firmly opposed to attempts to manipulate the Covid measures for political purposes and will take counter-measures based on the principle of reciprocity.”

My colleague Liam James has the details:

China hits out at ‘unacceptable’ Covid restrictions imposed on its travellers

70% of Chinese megacity infected with Covid, doctor says

Tuesday 3 January 2023 15:45 , Emily Atkinson

As China battles a massive surge in Covid cases, a senior doctor at one of Shanghai’s top hospitals has claimed that 70 per cent of the city’s population has been infected.

The wave of cases comes after the Communist regime loosened draconian Covid restrictions overnight, overwhelming hospitals and crematoriums.

Chen Erzhen, vice president at Ruijin Hospital in Shanghai and a member of the city’s Covid-19 expert advisory panel, was quoted as saying the majority of the city’s 25 million people may have been infected.

Maroosha Muzaffar reports:

70% of Chinese megacity infected with Covid, doctor says