after Italy and Japan, several countries are considering introducing entry restrictions for travelers from China

The decision by the Chinese authorities to suddenly ease their measures to combat Covid-19 is raising concerns around the world about the risk of new variants of the virus emerging. Beijing’s announcement on January 8 of the end of mandatory quarantines on arrival was met with joy by the Chinese and sparked a rush for international flights.

The news was received in a completely different way abroad, while China is facing the biggest wave of pollution in the world, reinforced by the emergence of new varieties. Following the Lombardy region, all of Italy decided on Wednesday 28 December to impose mandatory tests on all travelers arriving from China. “This measure is essential to guarantee the monitoring and individualization of possible variants of the virus to protect the Italian population”justified the Italian Minister of Health, Orazio Schillaci, in a press release.

In the evening, the Elysée declared that“Emmanuel Macron has it[vait] have already asked the government to consider appropriate measures to protect the French in this context, looking both at national and European level.”. “For now he asked to see and prepare proposals for the next few days”then specified the presidency of the republic.

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The international community “concerned”

US officials had said earlier on Tuesday that the US was also considering similar entry restrictions after Japan and India imposed mandatory PCR tests on Chinese arrivals. “The international community is increasingly concerned about the current outbreaks of Covid-19 in China and the lack of transparent data, including viral genomic sequence data, reported by China”these US sources said on condition of anonymity.

United States “follow scientific data and advice from public health experts, consult with partners and consider taking similar measures (…) to protect the American people”, they added. Citing concerns expressed by the World Health Organization (WHO), they added that the US “consider taking similar measures” to those decided by Japan, India and Malaysia. Tokyo will thus restore the mandatory PCR tests for travelers from the Chinese mainland from 30 December. The island of Taiwan, which Beijing claims as part of its territory, also announced it would carry out checks on travelers from the mainland.

Beijing’s sudden turnaround in health policy has ended nearly three years of mass testing, shutdowns and extended quarantines that have severely disrupted the country’s supply chains as well as China’s economy, the world’s second largest. . Hospitals and crematoria are overwhelmed as residents report a shortage of fever medicine as the spread of the virus among the 1.4 billion population remains largely unchecked. Asked about the restrictions announced by Japan, the Chinese Foreign Ministry on Tuesday urged states to maintain measures “scientific and appropriate” against Covid-19, which “do not disturb” human exchanges.

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All travelers arriving in China had to comply with a mandatory quarantine since March 2020. Initially lasting three weeks, it was reduced to just one in June, then to five days last month. The abolition of this rule in January will also mean a reclassification of Covid-19 as a category B infectious disease, allowing the authorities to relax controls. On Tuesday, the Chinese migration authorities also announced the gradual resumption of the granting of passports to “tourism” and “Visit of friends abroad” from 8 January.

Lack of genomic data

Beijing has also acknowledged that it was “impossible” to follow the development of the epidemic and has even stopped publishing daily data on the health situation since Sunday. The official figures were increasingly criticized as the underestimation of cases of infection and deaths had become apparent. But it is the lack of genomic data that raises the biggest fear abroad, which does “increasingly difficult for public health officials to ensure that they will be able to identify potential new variants and take rapid action to reduce the spread”US officials said.

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China’s National Health Commission, which acts as a ministry, said on Monday that it no longer considers Covid-19 a “pneumonia” but as a disease “contagious” less dangerous, which no longer justifies quarantines. From next month, only a negative test of less than 48 hours is required to enter Chinese territory.

See the graphic: Covid-19: epidemic figures in France and around the world, in maps and graphics

The news led to a jump in online searches for outbound flights, state media reported. Within half an hour of the announcement, the number of searches for destinations outside mainland China increased tenfold compared to 2021, according to Trip.com, one of the fastest growing travel booking sites. Macao, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand and South Korea are among the most popular destinations. Travel app Tongcheng reports an 850% jump in searches on its platform.

The country’s borders have been almost completely closed to foreign nationals since 2020. China has stopped issuing tourist visas for almost three years. A measure that will continue.

The world with AFP

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