The World Health Organization said it has ‘again’ asked Chinese officials for regular sharing of real-time data.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has again urged Chinese officials to share real-time data on the country’s surging COVID-19 infections so that other countries can respond effectively.

“WHO again asked for regular sharing of specific and real-time data on the epidemiological situation – including more genetic sequencing data, data on disease impact including hospitalisations, intensive care unit (ICU) admissions and deaths,” the United Nations agency said in a statement on Friday after a meeting between Chinese and WHO officials.

“WHO stressed the importance of monitoring and the timely publication of data to help China and the global community to formulate accurate risk assessments and to inform effective responses,” the world health body said.

A steep rise in infections in China following the country’s lifting of a strict “zero-COVID” policy has triggered concern around the globe and again raised questions about China’s data reporting, which continues to show low official infection figures and few deaths despite evidence that some hospitals and morgues are being overwhelmed.

The talks came after WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged Beijing to be more forthcoming on the pandemic situation.

The UN agency said the meeting was “to seek further information on the situation, and to offer WHO’s expertise and further support”.

Officials from China’s National Health Commission and the National Disease Control and Prevention Administration briefed the WHO on China’s evolving strategy and actions on epidemiology, variant monitoring, vaccination, clinical care, communication and research and development, the WHO said.

“WHO reiterated the importance of vaccination and boosters to protect against severe disease and death for people at higher risk,” the Geneva-based organisation said.

“WHO called on China to strengthen viral sequencing, clinical management, and impact assessment, and expressed willingness to provide support on these areas, as well as on risk communications on vaccination to counter hesitancy.”

The UN agency said Chinese scientists were invited to engage more closely in WHO-led COVID-19 expert networks and asked them to present detailed data at a virus evolution advisory group meeting on Tuesday.

In the wake of widespread anti-lockdown protests, Chinese authorities announced that they had abandoned strict measures to contain the virus, including opening up to international visitors and lifting limits on Chinese people travelling abroad. The United States, South Korea, India, Italy, Japan and Taiwan, among others, have imposed COVID test requirements for travellers from China.

The new surge in cases comes almost exactly three years on since the first coronavirus infections were recorded in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.

Since then, more than 650 million confirmed COVID cases and more than 6.6 million deaths have been reported, though the UN health agency acknowledges this will be a vast undercount.

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