Monday, February 6, 2023

China steps up fight against new Covid epidemic and US blame game

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Chinese authorities have stepped up their battle against a new wave of coronavirus cases – as well as a blame game with the United States – in a bid to suppress a series of outbreaks in and around Beijing.

Officials said on Wednesday they would screen anyone who had entered the Chinese capital since December 10 and tightened screening measures in two areas of the city.

The authorities were frightened by a epidemic in Hebei province, which surrounds the capital, the worst in the country since last spring. Of the 88 locally transmitted confirmed cases across China on Tuesday, 19 were discovered in Hebei and six more in a district of Beijing that borders the province, triggering mass tests and targeted lockdowns in the capital.

Authorities have also restricted travel to and from Shunyi, a popular residential area where the city’s main airport is located.

The deterioration of the situation comes almost exactly one year after the virus first emerged in the central city of Wuhan and just weeks away from the annual Chinese New Year holiday, when hundreds of millions of people roam the country.

But Chinese officials have strongly disputed most experts’ claim that the virus originated in or near Wuhan, where a team of experts from the World Health Organization is located. investigate the roots of the pandemic.

The hottest topic on Chinese social media on Wednesday was “Fort Detrick,” a military installation in Maryland where the US military is researching germs. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said Fort Detrick should be investigated as a possible source of the pandemic.

Some Chinese officials already have peddled unproven conspiracy theories this coronavirus was “imported” to Wuhan by members of an American military team who participated in a sporting event there in 2019.

Ms Hua and other Chinese officials have repeatedly been enraged by the Trump administration suggestions this coronavirus may have escaped from a Chinese research center in Wuhan. The US State Department said last week it had “reason to believe” that several researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology exhibited “symptoms consistent with both Covid-19 and common seasonal illnesses. At the end of 2019.

Chinese state media have also attempted to cast doubt on the effectiveness of Western Covid-19 vaccines in a bid to counter what they say is biased foreign criticism of China. vaccine development program.

Joe Biden’s incoming administration is unlikely to escalate the war of words with China over the origins of the coronavirus. The president-elect also pledged to reverse Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the WHO.

But the Trump administration has enacted a series of sanctions targeting Chinese officials and companies Mr. Biden is unlikely to untangle, given broad bipartisan support for a tougher approach from Beijing.

Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State, said on Tuesday that the US government considers China’s crackdown on Muslim Uyghurs in the northwestern Xinjiang region to be “genocide”. Antony Blinken, Mr Biden’s candidate for secretary of state, said in a Senate confirmation hearing that he agreed with the appointment.

Additional reporting by Xueqiao Wang in Shanghai

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