US Joins Countries In Restricting China After COVID Surges

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)

The United States is the latest in a growing number of countries to impose restrictions on visitors from China after Beijing abruptly removed a major impediment to overseas travel despite surging Covid cases at home.

Hospitals across China have been overwhelmed by an explosion of Covid cases following Beijing’s decision to lift strict rules that had largely kept the virus at bay but tanked its economy and sparked widespread protests.

On Monday, the country said it would bring an end to mandatory quarantine on arrival — prompting many jubilant Chinese citizens to make plans to travel abroad.

In response, the United States and a number of other countries announced they would require negative Covid tests for all travellers from mainland China.

“The recent rapid increase in Covid-19 transmission in China increases the potential for new variants emerging,” a senior US health official told reporters in a phone briefing.

Beijing has provided only limited data about circulating variants in China to global databases, the official said, and its testing and reporting on new cases has also diminished.

The US move came after Italy, Japan, India and Malaysia announced their own measures in a bid to protect against importing new Covid variants from China.

Beijing has hit out against “hyping, smearing and political manipulation” by the Western media concerning its Covid response.

“Currently China’s epidemic situation is all predictable and under control,” foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a briefing Wednesday.

China still does not allow foreign visitors, however, with the issuance of visas for overseas tourists and students still suspended.

But the lifting of mandatory quarantines sparked a surge in interest in overseas travel by Chinese citizens, who have been largely confined to their country since Beijing pulled down the drawbridge in March 2020.