Countries Increase Restrictions On Chinese Travelers

Inbound travelers wait for hours board buses to leave for quarantine hotels and facilities from Guangzhou Baiyun Airport in southern China's Guangdong province on Dec. 25 2022. China will drop a COVID-19 quarantine requirement for passengers arriving from abroad starting Jan. 8, the National Health Commission announced Monday, Dec, 26, 2022 in the latest easing of the country's once-strict virus-control measures. (AP Photo/Emily Wang Fujiyama)

Travellers from China now face restrictions when entering more than a dozen countries as concern grows over its surge in Covid-19 cases, with Australia the latest to demand a negative test before arrival.

Last month, Beijing abruptly began dismantling its “zero-Covid” containment policy of lockdowns and mass testing, three years after the coronavirus first emerged in the city of Wuhan.

As Covid overwhelms Chinese hospitals and crematoriums, officials have insisted that the wave is “under control” despite acknowledging that the true scale of infections is “impossible” to track.

Australia’s health minister on Sunday cited Beijing’s “lack of comprehensive information” about Covid cases as the reasoning behind the travel requirement, which will take effect on January 5. The move will “safeguard Australia from the risk of potential new emerging variants,” he said.

In recent days, Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan have also imposed either a negative Covid test requirement or testing upon arrival for travellers from China.

Canada cited “the limited epidemiological and viral genomic sequence data available” on recent Covid cases in China for its negative test demand.

Meanwhile, Morocco moved to ban all arrivals from China on Saturday, “to avoid a new wave of contaminations in Morocco and all its consequences”.

The flurry of global travel restrictions began as countries anticipated a surge in Chinese visitors after Beijing announced mandatory quarantine for inbound passengers would end on January 8.

The World Health Organization has called the precautionary measures “understandable” in light of the lack of outbreak information provided by Beijing.

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But the European branch of the International Airports Council — which represents more than 500 airports in 55 European countries — said the restrictions were not justified or risk-based.

European countries will meet next week to discuss a joint response to the issue, with incoming EU presidency holder Sweden saying it was “seeking a common policy for the entire EU when it comes to the introduction of possible entry restrictions”.