Hong Kong — China’s booming Covid epidemic amid Chinsese vaccine failure. Countries are imposing travel restrictions on Chinese travelers wary of importing virus from China. Scientists warn against the mass spread of virus in other countries, fear and xenophobia.
But it’s not early 2020. The familiar scene is playing out now as China battles its biggest outbreak yet after abandoning its strict zero-Covid approach and partially reopening its borders three years into the pandemic. But the move is risky to the world. Scientists and experts warn China’s early covid restrictions drop and border opening, that poses global threat.
After the failed Chinese vaccines to provide the immunity against covid variants countries are hesitant to allow Chinese travelers in their countries.
Several counties have announced to ban or strict conditions for Chinese travelers to combat the possibility of new Chinese variant from spreading in their countries. It has fueled a surge of eager travelers booking flights from the country, hungry for a trip after years of isolation – but also raised concerns among some overseas governments as COVID cases in China skyrocket.
Almost half of the 212 passengers who arrived at Italy’s Milan airport from China on Monday tested positive for Covid, the regional health chief said on Wednesday.
But while countries including the US and Japan are imposing restrictions, others, such as France and the UK, have made it clear they are ready to welcome Chinese travelers – who were the main driver of international tourism before the pandemic.
Which countries impose testing requirements?
Japan announced on Tuesday that all passengers who have either been to mainland China or traveled there within seven days will be tested upon arrival from Friday and that the government will limit the number of flights to and from China.
The country’s prime minister, Fumio Kishida, pointed to the lack of official data from the Chinese government. “While there is information that the infection is spreading rapidly in mainland China, there is growing concern in Japan as it is difficult to understand the detailed situation,” he said.
Indian authorities have introduced similar guidelines for travelers not only from China but also from several nearby locations including Japan, South Korea and Thailand. The aim of the guidelines is to ensure that Covid does not spread as quickly as it did in China, authorities said on Tuesday.
Taiwan also announced mandatory tests on arrival for travelers from mainland China on Wednesday. The self-ruled island has banned tourists from mainland China since the pandemic and only allows Chinese citizens to visit for business or family reasons.
At all three locations, those found positive upon arrival will be forced into quarantine for several days.
Meanwhile, the United States has announced it will require a negative test result before departure from travelers from China, including Hong Kong and Macau – as well as popular third-country gateways such as Seoul, Toronto and Vancouver.
However china has started downplaying its covid outbreak and condemning against the strict actions by the countries to disallow chinse travelers in their countries. Few of the chinse contentions have been mentioned below in the article.
The measures are particularly striking given that most of these places – particularly in the West – have long since reopened their borders and abandoned testing requirements as part of the transition to life with Covid. China responded on Wednesday by claiming its Covid situation was “under control” and accused Western media of “misrepresenting” its recent policy changes.
In Europe, Italy – the first country on the continent to be hit by a large-scale outbreak in 2020 – announced it would require Covid tests for all travelers arriving from China, with the health minister saying it was essential to identify “any variants”. .. in order to protect the Italian population.”
On Thursday, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said the surge in cases in China was not expected to affect the European Union’s Covid situation and called restrictions on travelers from China “unwarranted”.
So are variants a risk?
Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, acknowledged the risk of a new variant emerging in an “unvaccinated population.”
But the countries doubt the efficacy of Chinse vaccines due to their inability to curb Covid cases in the country.
“Even though (in China) they officially have 90% of the population vaccinated with two doses of inactivated vaccines, you still have a large percentage of elderly people who are not vaccinated … and many people who are vaccinated have done so. more than six months ago, so their antibody levels are already very low,” he said. “So we cannot rule out the possibility that new variants may indeed appear in China and spread to other parts of the world.”
One federal US health official pointed to the speed of the outbreak in China, saying: “With so many people infected in China in a short period of time, there is a chance and a likelihood that a new variant will emerge.”
U.S. officials have also raised concerns about China’s lack of transparency about the recent surge in cases, particularly the absence of genome sequencing information that could help detect new strains of the coronavirus.
But the global virus database GISEAD said Chinese authorities had provided more genomic information from recent samples – and that they appeared to match variants already circulating around the world.
Karen Grepin, an associate professor at the School of Public Health at the University of Hong Kong, said the country’s best defense against potential variants is to focus on domestic policies to protect its own population — such as boosting vaccinations, maintaining social distancing and more. basic measures in the field of public health.
“In many parts of the world, the pandemic appears to be over … but at the end of the day (these measures) are ultimately what prevent the transmission of the virus,” she said.
“If the countries are in place
If they think those things aren’t important anymore because they’ve developed so much herd immunity, for example, why worry about a few new cases coming from China?”
Despite the potential risk, many health experts have widely criticized the new testing requirements as ineffective at best and alarmist at worst.
Are the measures effective?
“I don’t see any compelling reason to justify this move,” said Huang of the Council on Foreign Relations. “We have no evidence yet as to whether such variants actually occur in mainland China.”
“I can understand the concern about the lack of transparency, about the lack of sharing of genome sequencing,” he added. “But even with a ban, we cannot prevent the spread of the virus. And assuming that new variants are indeed emerging in mainland China, we would only delay the spread, not prevent the virus from spreading to other parts of China.” world.”
Grepin reiterated this point, saying, “We don’t really have scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of these measures in practice.”
If an infectious variant emerges, it will likely reach the United States through other countries anyway, she said, noting that restrictions “did very little” when Omicron emerged last fall.
Pre-departure testing — required by the U.S. — is also only somewhat effective because many new variants have a short incubation period, meaning “there will still be cases that get through,” she added.