A growing Covid outbreak in China, as reported by CNN in Hong Kong. Countries restricting Chinese tourists’ ability to travel, concerned about the virus being brought in from abroad. Scientists are warning against xenophobia and fearmongering.
However, it is not yet 2020. After abandoning its stringent zero-Covid approach and partially reopening its border three years into the pandemic, China is currently battling its largest outbreak to date as the familiar scene plays out.
This week, the nation announced that it will resume previously prohibited outbound travel for Chinese citizens and will eliminate quarantine requirements for international arrivals. After several years of isolation, it sparked a surge in eager travelers booking flights outside the country. However, as China’s Covid cases skyrocketed, it also raised concerns among some overseas governments.
A regional health chief said on Wednesday that almost half of the 212 Chinese passengers who arrived at Milan’s airport on Monday tested positive for Covid.
However, while some nations, such as the United States and Japan, are attempting to impose restrictions, others, such as France and Great Britain, have made it abundantly clear that they are prepared to welcome Chinese tourists, who were a major driver of international tourism prior to the pandemic.
Which nations have requirements for testing?
On Tuesday, Japan announced that the government would limit the number of flights to and from China and that all travelers who have been to mainland China or have traveled there within the past seven days would be tested upon arrival beginning on Friday.
Fumio Kishida, the country’s prime minister, complained about the absence of official data from the Chinese government. Even though there is information that the infection is spreading quickly in mainland China, Japan’s concern has grown because it is hard to understand the specifics, he said.
Similar guidelines were implemented by Indian authorities for Chinese travelers as well as those from Japan, South Korea, and Thailand. Authorities stated on Tuesday that the guidelines are intended to prevent Covid from spreading as quickly as it has in China.
On Wednesday, Taiwan also announced that travelers coming from mainland China must pass tests upon arrival. Oneself decision island has prohibited central area Chinese vacationers since the pandemic, and just permits Chinese residents to visit for business or family reasons.
Those who are found to be positive upon arrival in any of the three locations will need to spend several days in isolation.
In the meantime, travelers from China, including Hong Kong and Macao, as well as popular third-country gateways Seoul, Toronto, and Vancouver, will be required to submit a negative pre-departure test result.
Given that the majority of these locations, particularly in the West, have long since reopened their borders and eliminated testing requirements as part of the transition to living with Covid, the measures are especially striking. On Wednesday, China responded by asserting that its Covid situation was “under control” and that Western media had “distorted” its recent policy changes.
In Europe, Italy – – the main country on the landmass to be hit by a far and wide episode in 2020 – – reported it would require Coronavirus tests for all voyagers coming from China, with the wellbeing clergyman saying it was fundamental to distinguish “any variations … to safeguard the Italian populace.”
The EU Commission announced via Twitter that health security officials from across the European Union would meet on Thursday to discuss the outbreak in China and any “possible measures.”
Are variants then a danger?
The Council on Foreign Relations’ senior fellow for global health, Yanzhong Huang, acknowledged the possibility of a new variant arising in “unvaccinated populations.”
“Even though (in China) officially they have vaccinated 90% of the population with two doses of the inactivated vaccines, you still have a large percentage of the elderly who are not vaccinated… and many of the people who are vaccinated did so more than six months ago, so their antibody levels are already very low,” he stated. “Even though they have vaccinated 90% of the population with two doses of the inactivated vaccines,” So we can’t preclude the likelihood that new variations can without a doubt arise in China and spread to different regions of the planet.”
According to a federal US health official, the rapidity of the outbreak in China There is a possibility that a new variant will emerge due to the rapid inoculation of so many people in China.”
US authorities have additionally communicated worries about China’s absence of straightforwardness encompassing the new flood in cases, especially the shortfall of genome sequencing data that could assist with recognizing new types of the Covid.
However, a global virus database called GISEAD reported that Chinese authorities had been submitting more genomic information from recent samples, and that this information appeared to match the variants that are already in circulation worldwide.
According to Karen Grepin, an associate professor at the University of Hong Kong’s School of Public Health, a nation’s best defense against potential variants is to concentrate on domestic policies that protect its own population, such as increasing vaccination rates, maintaining social distance, and other fundamental public health measures.
She stated, “The pandemic feels like it’s over in a lot of places around the world… but at the end of the day, (these measures) are ultimately what prevents the virus from spreading.”
“Why care about a couple of new cases coming in from China if countries are at the point where they think those things are no longer important, for example because they have developed so much population immunity?”
How effective are the measures?
The new testing requirements have been widely criticized by numerous health professionals as ineffective at best and alarmist at worst, despite the potential risk.
The Council on Foreign Relations’ Huang stated, “I don’t see any convincing reason to justify this move.” We do not yet have any evidence to support the existence of such variants on mainland China.
He added, “I can understand concerns due to the lack of transparency and sharing of the genomic sequencing.” But we can’t stop the virus from spreading even if we ban it. We won’t stop the virus from spreading to other parts of the world, but if there are indeed new variants emerging on mainland China, we will simply delay its spread.”
Grepin made a similar observation, stating: In point of fact, we lack the scientific evidence to demonstrate that these measures actually work.”
Assuming an irresistible variation arises, it will probably enter the US through different nations at any rate, she expressed, bringing up that limitations “did very little” when Omicron arose the previous fall.
She added that “there will still be cases that will make it through” because many new variants have a short incubation period, making pre-departure testing, which the US requires, only partially effective.
Xenophobia and pressure from politicians
Grepin stated that despite their questionable use, countries may be imposing these restrictions for a number of reasons, one of which is the fear that Chinese Covid patients may be fleeing to other locations to seek treatment, leaving domestic hospitals completely overwhelmed.
However, she added that this is highly unlikely. Due in part to the limited number of flights, the volume of travel out of China is still extremely low. Additionally, it would be difficult for infected patients to immediately obtain visas and book flights abroad given the rate at which Covid is spreading.
She stated that instead, the “political pressure (on authorities) to look like they’re doing something)” likely reflects the recent flurry of restrictions. We observe one nation doing it, and subsequent nations do the same.”
As was the case at the beginning of the pandemic when Asians all over the world faced discrimination and violent hate crimes, experts are also warning that focusing solely on China could increase the likelihood of even more anti-Chinese racism.
Huang stated, “China is not the only location experiencing an increase in cases.” I don’t have the foggiest idea about why China ought to be dealt with uniquely in contrast to different nations like Australia, for instance, which is swimming in Coronavirus,” he added.
According to Grepin, the United States is already likely importing tens of thousands of cases from other countries. Grepin also stated that Covid affects anywhere from one to three percent of all international travelers, so there is little point in focusing on cases of Covid that originate in a single nation.
She stated, “We’ve seen this throughout the pandemic: when certain measures are targeted at people coming from a specific place, it reinforces stereotypes or beliefs that viruses are coming from certain parts of the world… It’s just simply not true.”
Which nations are welcoming returning Chinese tourists?
In contrast, numerous nations have extended a warm welcome.
The travel industry divisions and consulates of France, Thailand, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Austria and Switzerland all posted messages on Weibo, China’s form of Twitter, welcoming Chinese vacationers.
“Chinese friends, France warmly welcomes you!” On Weibo, the French embassy wrote. In a letter, the Thailand National Tourism Administration wrote: For three years, Thailand has been anticipating your arrival!On the other hand, numerous nations have received us with open arms.
On Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, the travel industry divisions and consulates of France, Thailand, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Austria, and Switzerland welcomed Chinese vacationers.
“France warmly welcomes you, Chinese friends!” The French embassy wrote on Weibo. The Thailand National Tourism Administration wrote in a letter: Thailand has been looking forward to your arrival for three years!