The Chinese government on Tuesday denounced Covid testing requirements imposed by other countries on travelers arriving from China as unscientific or “excessive” and threatened to take countermeasures.
As China prepares to open its borders later this week, allowing its citizens to travel abroad for the first time since the pandemic began, countries such as Canada, the United States, France, Spain, Japan and the United Kingdom have taken measures taken to restrict travelers coming from China. the country.
The countries have expressed concerns about an increase in Covid-19 infections in China, the potential risk of variants arising from the outbreak and the government’s perceived reluctance to share coronavirus data with other countries. The restrictions include mandating a negative Covid test or a mandatory test on arrival.
In response, Chinese officials have accused the countries of introducing the restrictions for political reasons.
“Some countries have no scientific basis for restricting entry from China, and some outrageous practices are even more unacceptable,” Mao Ning, a foreign ministry spokeswoman, said at a news conference in Beijing on Tuesday.
Understand the situation in China
The Chinese government rejected its restrictive “zero Covid” policy, which had sparked mass protests that posed a rare challenge to the Communist Party leadership.
“We firmly oppose the practice of manipulating Covid prevention and control measures to achieve political goals, and will take corresponding measures in accordance with the principle of reciprocity depending on the different situations,” Ms Mao said. She did not elaborate. Even after China eases travel restrictions, the government will still require inbound travelers to show a negative result on a polymerase chain reaction or PCR test within 48 hours of departure.
However, many health experts have said travel restrictions would not stop new variants — just as previous international travel bans have done little to stop the spread of the Omicron variant.
China is dealing with a surge in Covid cases after the government abruptly abandoned a “zero Covid” pandemic strategy that helped keep the virus at bay within its borders for nearly three years. The government in December dismantled a sprawling testing device that required residents to test regularly, and scrapped its strategy of lockdowns and grueling quarantines that applied not only to those who tested positive, but also to their contacts.
This Sunday, for the first time since early 2020 when Covid-19 first emerged in China, the government will drop quarantine rules for visitors to China from abroad and ease restrictions on inbound flights. It has also resumed processing passport applications from Chinese citizens for overseas tourism. Outbound flight bookings jumped nearly 300 percent on Dec. 27 when the government announced changes to its border restrictions as many people began planning trips abroad to see family and simply travel, according to data from Trip.com Group, a travel agency. booking company.
Many countries that long relied on Chinese tourists before the pandemic are now struggling to balance the economic prospect of a surge in Chinese tourism with health concerns stemming from the outbreak in China.
China has stopped reporting daily cases on a regular basis, and many scientists have expressed concerns about the opacity of reporting serious cases and Covid-related deaths. Some health experts have also expressed fears that the sheer number of cases could mean the virus will mutate into new and more dangerous variants. There are no indications yet and many scientists are skeptical about such a scenario occurring in the coming weeks.
Officially, China reported just 4,804 local cases and 3 deaths on Monday in its latest disclosure, but several cities have reported estimates of half a million or more daily cases. Health officials in Zhejiang said the coastal province is recording a million cases every day, adding they expected the outbreak there to peak sometime later this month.
“With the adjustment of international travel policies, the risk of imported new strains and the risk of domestic transmission will also increase significantly,” the Zhejiang Provincial Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a notice published Tuesday.
China’s state-controlled media has accused the United States and European countries of applying a “double standard” to China and using restrictions as a “political map”.
“It seems that, according to the political logic of some people in Europe and the United States, whether China is ‘opening up’ or ‘not opening up,’ what it is doing is wrong,” the Chinese state said. broadcasting, CCTV.
Zixu Wang contributed research.