Beijing’s sudden pivot away from containing Covid-19 has caused jitters around the world, with the United States saying it may restrict travel from China following its decision to end mandatory quarantine for overseas arrivals.
According to France 24 News, China late Monday scrapped quarantine for inbound travelers from January 8 onwards, dismantling the last remaining piece of its stringent zero-Covid policy and ending some of the world’s harshest border restrictions.
The move was greeted with jubilation by Chinese citizens, who rushed to book international flights, triggering a surge in ticket prices. Hospitals and crematoriums across China continue to be overwhelmed by an influx of mostly elderly people.
AFP reporters saw dozens of mostly elderly Covid patients lying on gurneys in overflowing hospital emergency wards in Tianjin, 140 kilometres (87 miles) southwest of the capital Beijing Wednesday.
Medical staff are “pretty much all” expected to continue working despite testing positive for the virus, one doctor said. Other countries have expressed concerns about the potential for new variants to emerge as China battles the world’s biggest surge in infections.
US officials said late Tuesday they were considering Covid entry restrictions on travelers from China, after countries including Japan and India introduced PCR testing on arrival for Chinese passengers.
“There are mounting concerns in the international community on the ongoing Covid-19 surges in China and the lack of transparent data, including viral genomic sequence data, being reported from the PRC,” the US officials said, referring to the People’s Republic of China.
The United States is “considering taking similar steps” to countries such as Japan and Malaysia, they added. Taiwan, a self-ruled island that China claims as its own, said Wednesday that it would also screen travelers from the mainland for the virus.
In other news, The US is now considering taking new coronavirus precautions for people traveling from China, which has seen a rapid rise in infections as officials lift Covid Zero restrictions.
According to MSN News, US officials said the government is concerned about the surge of cases in China, and has raised questions about the transparency of data the country is reporting about the spread of the virus. The officials requested anonymity to discuss internal thinking.
Japan is now requiring a negative Covid-19 test upon arrival for travelers from China, while Malaysia has imposed new tracking and surveillance measures. The US is weighing similar steps, the officials said, as a way to prevent further spread.
Discontent with Covid Zero sparked protests in China, leading authorities to move rapidly toward ending those policies and three years of self-isolation from the rest of the world. Yet the speed of those changes has seen infections surge.
China has announced it will no longer subject inbound travelers to quarantine starting Jan. 8. People arriving in China will only be required to obtain negative test results within 48 hours of departure, the country’s National Health Commission said in a Monday statement.
According to Barron’s, Italy is making coronavirus tests for visitors from China mandatory following an explosion in cases in China, the health minister said Wednesday. “I have ordered mandatory Covid-19 antigenic swabs, and related virus sequencing, for all passengers coming from China and transiting through Italy,” minister Orazio Schillaci said.
The measure was “essential to ensure the surveillance and identification of any variants of the virus in order to protect the Italian population”, he said. Coronavirus infections have surged in China as it unwinds hardline controls that had torpedoed the economy and sparked nationwide protests.
The Italian northern region of Lombardy introduced screening from Tuesday, a day before the measure was brought in nationwide. Lombardy, the first region to impose a lockdown when coronavirus hit Europe in early 2020, is testing arrivals from China at Milan’s Malpensa airport at least until January 30, the foreign ministry said. Swabs collected at Malpensa in recent days are already being analysed by the national health ministry, to help identify any new variants.