Chinese media seek to reassure public over COVID

STORY: It's the central Chinese city where the coronavrius was first identified over three years ago.

But despite the fresh outbreak sweeping the country, tens of thousands of revellers celebrated the start of the New Year in central Wuhan, amid heavy security.

Many Chinese took to the streets in Beijing to mark the beginning of 2023, too.

As authorities and state media sought to reassure the public that the COVID-19 wave was under control and nearing its peak.

State news agency Xinhua published an editorial on Sunday (January 1) saying the current strategy was "a planned, science-based approach" reflecting the changing nature of the virus.

This man says "The past three years has given us no opportunity to come and play. It brought restrictions on travel and so on. Now, after the end of this lockdown, we don’t have to scan the health code anymore nor do we have to check the travel code. So we are free now."

Though many people in major cities have continued to isolate as the virus spreads through the population, New Year revelries appeared to be mostly unaffected.

In Wuhan residents said anxieties about the impact of easing strict zero-COVID restrictions to live with the disease had now abated - at least for the young and healthy.

While a long line of people queued at the emergency department of this hospital in the city, a major facility for COVID-19 patients.

China's abrupt U-turn on COVID controls and the accuracy of its case and mortality data have come under increasing scrutiny both at home and overseas.

The surge in cases has also raised fresh worries about the health of the economy.

And on Sunday, Australia and Canada joined the U.S. and others in requiring travelers from China to provide negative COVID-19 tests when they arrive.

In his first public comments since the change in policy, President Xi Jinping called in a New Year's address for more effort and unity as China enters a "new phase."

China reported one new COVID-19 death in the mainland for December 31, the same as a day earlier, the Chinese Center for Disease Control said on Sunday.

The accumulated official death toll in China now stands at 5,249, far lower than in other large countries.

The government has rejected claims that it has deliberately underreported the total number of fatalities.