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Friday, June 21, 2024

Countries Alert after China Reopening News, and Covid Quarantine Relaxations

Hong Kong — China has announced to reopen its international boundaries with relaxed terms for travelers amid spiking uncontrolled Covid cases. Other countries are on high alert after the news due to possible mass speared of Covid from China. Japan and South Korea, the neighboring countries of China are already suffering from Covid outbreak with new variant, which was first found in china.

China’s partial reopening has been met with an outpouring of joy and relief from citizens — both the hundreds of millions of people isolated in the country over the past three years and those separated from loved ones overseas.

Authorities announced Monday that China will lift quarantine requirements for all international arrivals starting Jan. 8, the most significant step yet in the transition from a strict zero-Covid policy.
The border remains largely closed to foreigners, except for a limited number of business or family visits – although the government indicated on Monday that this could also be relaxed.
For many Chinese nationals abroad who were unable to return or unwilling to endure a lengthy quarantine, the news meant they could finally return home — a bittersweet victory after much sacrifice.

“Finally, everyone can (live) their normal lives,” said one Chinese man living in New York who has not been home for four years. She described the separation as “very painful” and said several members of her family and a beloved dog she grew up with had died during that time.

Her family “missed (my graduation). They missed so many things,” she said. “And I also missed so many things for my family. All my friends got married during the pandemic. Some of them even had children. I feel like I missed everything, I missed the most important points in their lives.”

May Ma, 28, was unable to return home for nearly three years while living in South Korea. The worst part about the quarantine requirements was worrying about her grandparents’ health and not knowing if she would be able to make it back in time to say goodbye if something happened, she said.

Throughout the pandemic, “the scariest thing … was not knowing where the end was, not knowing when I could come back,” she said. “I definitely feel very happy, finally seeing the end.

People in China also celebrate and look forward to outbound travel. Most have not left the country for several years and are now flooding booking sites to plan their long-awaited vacation.

Online searches for outbound flights and overseas hotels jumped to a three-year high on Chinese travel booking site Trip.com, according to company data. Searches for popular destinations increased tenfold within half an hour of the announcement, with many looking for outbound group tours during the Lunar New Year in late January, data shows.

Macau, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, South Korea, the United States and the United Kingdom were among the top 10 web destinations with the fastest growing search volume since the announcement.

But the opening of borders has raised concerns among some as China battles its worst wave of Covid infections since the pandemic began.

Cases have skyrocketed since China left zero Covid disease, with empty streets and overcrowded hospital wards. When CNN visited a Beijing crematorium last week, cars lined up at the entrance, filled with grieving family members who had waited more than a day to cremate their loved ones who died of Covid.

Last Friday, Bloomberg News and the Financial Times reported that nearly 250 million people in China may have caught Covid in the first 20 days of December, a figure presented during an internal meeting of China’s National Health Commission, according to both sources. They cited sources familiar with the matter or involved in the discussions.

If correct, the estimate — which CNN cannot independently confirm — would represent roughly 18% of China’s 1.4 billion people and represent the largest global Covid-19 outbreak to date.

“I feel like it’s a complete mess right now,” said the Chinese in New York. “Everyone is sick. So, at least now I think, is not the best time to visit my family. Maybe two or three months later.”

Some overseas destinations are also on the lookout. Officials in Italy’s Lombardy region have asked Milan’s Malpensa Airport – one of the country’s largest international airports – to conduct PCR tests on all arrivals from China between now and the end of January.
India, which borders China, has ordered travelers from China and several other countries to show a negative Covid test on arrival. And Japan announced on Friday that travelers from mainland China or those who have been in China within a week will be tested for Covid upon entry. In both India and Japan, those who test positive on arrival will have to enter quarantine.

But for many Chinese nationals, hungry for travel and reunion, the overwhelming emotion remains a relief.
“It doesn’t matter if I can return in time for the Spring Festival,” Ma said in South Korea, referring to the Lunar New Year. “There is hope after all, I can wait a little longer.”

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