China threatens retaliation over COVID-19 testing rules for travellers

Beijing has threatened to retaliate against countries who are imposing COVID-19 testing requirements on arrivals from China.

A growing list of countries, including England, have said that people travelling from mainland China will need a negative test before flying.

China's foreign ministry said the country is "willing to improve communication" but is firmly opposed to "attempts to manipulate the epidemic prevention and control measures for political purposes".

It comes as the virus continues to surge in the country amid the rollback of some of its notoriously strict coronavirus rules.

"We believe that the entry restrictions adopted by some countries targeting China lack scientific basis, and some excessive practices are even more unacceptable," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said on Tuesday.

"We are firmly opposed to attempts to manipulate the COVID measures for political purposes and will take countermeasures based on the principle of reciprocity."

The UK's Department of Health said China has been hit with the new rules because of "a lack of comprehensive health information".

It added: "The situation remains under review and the UK is working with China on next steps. If there are improvements in information sharing and greater transparency, then temporary measures will be reviewed."

The US and France are among the other nations who will require travellers from China to take COVID-19 tests.

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China's shift away from a "zero-COVID" policy that had been championed by President Xi Jinping followed protests that had marked the strongest show of public defiance during his decade in power and had coincided with the economy's slowest growth in nearly half a century.

Officials estimated 250 million people are likely to have contracted the virus in the first 20 days of December, according to leaked notes.

Shanghai last month had 5.43 million positive cases but the true number may be much higher as asymptomatic cases are no longer recorded.