India, other countries bring back curbs for visitors from China as Beijing battles Covid outbreak
NEW DELHI: Several countries have introduced, or are planning to implement, measures to test or restrict travelers from China, which has seen a surge in Covid cases following Beijing‘s decision to rollback strict lockdown norms and reopen borders.
Most nations have cited Beijing’s lack of transparency when it comes to Covid data, for imposing restrictions on travelers from China.
Beijing has said it will no longer subject inbound travelers to quarantine from January 8 and passport applications for Chinese citizens wishing to travel internationally will also resume on the same day.
Here’s how countries are dealing with arrivals from China
Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya announced that the RT-PCR test has been made mandatory for passengers coming from five countries, including China.
“The RT-PCR test has been made mandatory for international arrivals from China, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Thailand. On arrival, if any passenger from these countries is found symptomatic or tests positive for Covid-19 infection, then he/she will be put under quarantine,” Mandaviya said.
India is also randomly testing about 2% of all international arrivals to minimise the risk of any new variant entering the country.
On Wednesday, officials said the government is likely to make a negative RT-PCR report mandatory for passengers arriving from China and 5 other places from next week. They added that filling up of ‘air suvidha’ forms and 72-hour prior RT-PCR testing may also be made mandatory from next week for flyers from China.
Japan has imposed mandatory testing for Covid-19 from December 30 upon arrival for travelers from China.
The measure applies to travelers from mainland China and those who visited it within the past seven days.
Travelers are required to take a Covid-19 test upon their arrival in Japan. Those who test positive will be quarantined for seven days.
- United States
The US is considering new coronavirus precautions for people traveling from China amid questions about the transparency of data China is reporting about the spread of the virus, according to American officials.
The US is weighing implementing similar steps to Japan.
Malaysia has imposed new tracking and surveillance measures.
Taiwan will start testing those arriving from the Chinese mainland as it anticipates tens of thousands of people visiting for the Chinese New Year later in January.
The government will conduct virus sequencing for those who arrive from China and test positive to track new variants of the coronavirus.
The measures, which will run until the end of January, do not include those arriving from Hong Kong or Macau.
- Hong Kong
Hong Kong, which plans to reopen its borders with China before mid-January, is relaxing its entry rules.
On Wednesday, it announced a sweeping set of changes that will scrap limits on public gatherings as well as proof of vaccination for entry to some venues, and no longer require inbound travelers to take two RT-PCR tests after their arrival.
Desperate to travel
Following the easing of curbs on international travel, airline and hotel sites have seen a rush in bookings from China.
The latest decision could send an influx of free-spending Chinese tourists to destinations in Asia and Europe for Lunar New Year, which begins January 22. But it also presents a danger they might spread Covid-19 as infections surge in China.
Media reports said searches for popular destinations had increased ten-fold year-on-year. Macau, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand and South Korea were the most popular destinations.
Before the pandemic, the number of outbound tourists from China stood at 155 million in 2019, according to Statista. This number dropped to 20 million in 2020.
Largest outbreak in the world
In November, China saw a record increase in local Covid-19 outbreaks. Due to the deterioration of the epidemiological situation, the authorities introduced partial lockdowns in some areas while also forcing their residents to undergo PCR testing on a daily basis.
In particular, starting from November 24, restrictive measures were tightened in a number of China’s major cities, including Beijing and Shanghai.
Against this background, some Chinese cities — Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Wuhan, and others — were hit by mass protests. The rioters demanded the immediate lifting of lockdowns, the abolition of regular PCR testing, and the easing of Covid-19 restrictions.
Recently, the media reported that about 37 million people in China could have contracted Covid-19 on a single day last week, making the country’s outbreak the largest in the world. It was noted that up to 248 million people, or nearly 18% of the population, were likely to have contracted the coronavirus in the first 20 days of December.
(With inputs from agencies)