(CTN News) – With concerns over China’s surge in COVID-19 cases growing, more than a dozen countries now require travellers from China to undergo a negative test before entering.
After three years of containment measures and mass testing, Beijing abruptly ended its zero-COVID containment policy last month.
It is difficult to determine the true scale of COVID infections as it overwhelms Chinese hospitals and crematoriums, but officials insist the wave is “under control”.
Health Minister Greg Hunt cited Beijing’s “lack of comprehensive information” about COVID cases as the reason for the travel requirement, which will take effect on January 5. Australia will be protected from emerging variants by the move, he said.
Recently, Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan have also mandated negative COVID tests or testing upon arrival for Chinese travellers.
It cited “limited epidemiological and viral genomic sequence data” on recent COVID cases in China as the reason for its demand for a negative test.
A ban on arrivals from China was imposed by Morocco on Saturday to prevent a new wave of contamination in the country.
China announced on January 8 that mandatory quarantine for inbound passengers would end, sparking a flurry of travel restrictions around the world.
Based on the lack of outbreak information provided by Beijing, the World Health Organization called the precautionary measures “understandable.”
According to the European branch of the International Airports Council, which represents more than 500 airports in 55 European countries, the restrictions are neither justified nor risk-based.
Next week, European countries will meet to discuss a response to the issue, with Sweden saying it is “seeking a common policy for the entire EU when it comes to possible entry restrictions”.
Hope’s light COVID-19 cases
Some major Chinese cities seem to have recovered from the current wave of infections, but under-resourced smaller cities and rural areas have been particularly hard hit.
Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen said on Sunday she would “provide necessary assistance based on humanitarian concerns” but did not specify what kind of assistance Beijing might receive from the self-ruled island, which is regarded by Beijing as a breakaway province.
The Chinese president, Xi Jinping, struck an optimistic note in his New Year’s address.
A new era of epidemic prevention and control has begun… Everyone is working resolutely, and the light of hope is right before us,” Xi told state media on Saturday.
This was Xi’s second comment on the outbreak this week. “Effective measures to protect people’s lives” were called for by him on Monday.
Even with the increase in infections, large crowds still gathered for New Year’s Eve celebrations in Shanghai and Wuhan. However, some social media users noted that the celebrations seemed more subdued this year.
Despite the fact that China reported 5,100 new infections and one death linked to COVID on Sunday, the figures don’t seem to reflect the reality on the ground.