Queues at morgues as China condemns traveler COVID curbs

STORY: A growing line of mourners could be seen outside a Beijing morgue on Wednesday (January 4) as China battles its COVID-surge.

It’s not the picture some there would like the world to see.

“No filming!” said this security staff.

China’s health authorities officially reported just five deaths on Tuesday.

But some believe the toll could be much higher, including Zhang, a Beijing resident.

"Some people told me the government released the number, that was a single digit number of deaths, that is totally ridiculous and not credible, you know. As far as I know, my close relatives, among them, there are four that died already, that is from one family. So I hope the government will honestly and credibly tell its people and people in the world what’s really happened here."

The World Health Organization on Tuesday invited Chinese scientists to share detailed numbers on its COVID deaths, hospitalizations and vaccinations, as concern grows over the accuracy of China’s data for its current surge.

State mouthpiece the People’s Daily on Wednesday called on citizens to rally around a “final victory” over the virus.

In the same editorial, it rejected criticism of tough anti-virus regime that triggered protests late last year.

Beijing U-turned on zero-COVID policies in early December after a flare up of public anger, and now infections are growing.

Fearful of new variants emerging, countries are slapping tougher controls on inbound Chinese travelers, which Beijing criticizes as unreasonable and lacking scientific basis.

Japan will require a negative test result before departure for all Chinese visitors from Wednesday, following similar moves by the United States, Britain and South Korea.

South Korea, which began testing travelers from China for COVID on Monday, said more than a fifth of the test results were positive.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman denounced the testing as 'discriminatory practices', adding that countries should not use the surge as an 'opportunity to engage in political manipulation'.

But despite restrictions, state media reports interest in outbound travel cranking up.

At least five million Chinese are expected to arrive in Thailand this year – a third of its pre-pandemic annual total, while bookings for international flights from China have risen yearly by 145%.

Though passenger travel is still a fraction of pre-COVID levels, the Chinese government says it will increase flights and make it easier for residents to travel abroad.