As Covid-hit China reopens to the world, countries erect travel barriers – Times of India


SHANGHAI/SINGAPORE: With China days away from lifting border controls that have effectively sealed it off from the rest of the world for three years, countries are lining up to impose restrictions on travelers from China to avert the raging Covid outbreak -19 to contain.
From Sunday, January 8, China will drop the requirement for inbound travelers to quarantine, the latest dismantling of its “zero-Covid” regime that began last month after historic protests against a suffocating series of mass lockdowns.
But the abrupt changes exposed many of China’s 1.4 billion people to the virus for the first time, sparking a wave of infection that is overwhelming some hospitals, emptying pharmacy shelves of drugs and raising international alarm.
Greece, Germany and Sweden joined more than a dozen countries on Thursday in requiring Covid testing of Chinese travelers as the World Health Organization said China’s official virus data underreported the true extent of the outbreak.
Chinese officials and state media have struck a defiant tone, defending the outbreak’s handling, downplaying the severity of the surge and denouncing foreign travel requirements for residents.
“Regardless of how China decides to deal with the COVID-19 epidemic, some Western media and some Western politicians will never be satisfied,” the state-run Global Times wrote in an editorial late Thursday.
The airline industry, battered by years of pandemic restrictions, has also been critical of decisions to allow travelers from China to be tested. China will still require pre-departure testing for inbound travelers after January 8.
Some Chinese citizens think the reopening is too hasty.
“They should have taken some actions before opening, such as advising what precautions people of a certain age should take… his surname as Zhao told Reuters in Shanghai.
“Not doing this made it very messy.”
China reported five new mainland COVID deaths on Thursday, bringing its official virus death toll to 5,264, one of the lowest in the world.
But that is at odds with the situation on the spot where funeral homes and crematoriums are overcrowded and some hospitals are full of elderly patients on ventilators.
International health experts believe Beijing’s narrow definition of COVID deaths does not reflect the true number, which could rise to more than a million fatalities this year.
With the major New Year holiday at the end of this month, the mainland will also open the border with its Hong Kong Special Administrative Region on Sunday for the first time in three years.
Ferry services between the city and the gambling center of Macau will resume on the same day.
Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways said on Thursday it will more than double flights to mainland China. Flights to and from China remain at a fraction of their pre-Covid levels.
The WHO has warned that the holiday, which begins on January 21 and usually brings the largest human migration in the world as people move home from cities to see families in rural areas, could trigger a new wave of infections without higher vaccination coverage and other precautions. .
Authorities expect 2.1 billion passenger journeys by road, rail, water and air during the holiday, doubling from 1.05 billion in the same period last year.
The Department of Transport has urged people to exercise caution to minimize the risk of infection for elderly relatives, pregnant women and babies.
One region that could be a big beneficiary of China’s opening is Southeast Asia, which has not avoided demanding COVID testing of Chinese visitors.
Aside from Malaysia and Thailand testing airplane wastewater for the virus, the 11 countries in the region will treat Chinese travelers like everyone else.
A whopping 76% of China’s travel agencies ranked Southeast Asia as the top destination when outbound travel resumed, according to a survey published in December by trade show ITB China.

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