China denies lack of transparency in reporting COVID data

China has dismissed concerns over how it reports the current toll the coronavirus is taking on its people. It comes after the World Health Organization said Beijing had downplayed the impact of a recent infection surge.

Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning said, "China has always maintained close communications with the WHO and shared relevant information and data in accordance with the principles of timeliness, openness and transparency."

But WHO officials said on Wednesday Beijing was not being accurate. They say Beijing's definition of a COVID-related death is "too narrow."

Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, "We continue to ask China for more rapid, regular, and reliable data on hospitalizations, as well as more comprehensive real-time viral sequencing. WHO is concerned about the risk to life in China."

On Wednesday, China reported over 9,000 new cases, but actual numbers are believed to be higher. The country ended large-scale PCR testing last month when it revised its "zero-COVID" policies.

China has also not given any indication it plans to backtrack on loosening the rules. Restrictions on travel between Hong Kong and the mainland are expected to be eased on January 8th.

Japanese officials are preparing to tighten controls. On Wednesday, 72 people tested positive after arriving at Japanese airports. 71 were from mainland China.

Right now, travelers from mainland China only need to take a coronavirus antigen test upon arrival.

Starting Sunday, they will need to take a more accurate quantitative antigen or PCR test. They will also need to provide negative test results taken within 72 hours prior to their departure.