The United States, Canada, Japan and France are among the countries insisting all travellers from China provide negative COVID tests before arrival, as concerns grow over a surge in cases. Morocco has banned all travellers from China.
In Thailand, authorities are still debating what measures to adopt for visitors from the country that was the kingdom’s biggest source of tourists before the pandemic. A meeting of officials from various agencies is planned tomorrow.
In recent days Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvitrakul and various officials from his ministry have floated several possibilities. While testing at airports has been deemed impractical, proof of vaccination and insurance might be demanded.
China’s steep rise in COVID-19 infections comes after Beijing abruptly lifted years of hardline restrictions last month, with hospitals and crematoriums quickly overwhelmed.
But Beijing has pushed ahead with a long-awaited re-opening, last week announcing an end to mandatory quarantines on arrival in a move that prompted Chinese people to plan trips abroad.
“Some countries have taken entry restrictions targeting only Chinese travellers,” foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told a regular briefing.
“This lacks scientific basis and some practices are unacceptable,” she added, warning China could “take countermeasures based on the principle of reciprocity”.
Asked about China’s reaction, French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne defended the new rules.
“I think we’re performing our duty in asking for tests,” Borne told franceinfo radio.
“We will continue to do it.”
The rules imposed affect all travellers coming from China - not just Chinese nationals - while Beijing continues to restrict inbound visitors and not issue visas for tourists or international students.
Countries including the United States have also cited Beijing’s lack of transparency around infection data and the risk of new variants as a reason to restrict travellers.
China has officially recorded only 22 COVID deaths since December and has dramatically narrowed the criteria for classifying such deaths - meaning that Beijing’s own statistics about the unprecedented wave are now widely seen as not reflecting reality. This has added to the concerns of other countries.
As health workers nationwide battle a surge in cases, a senior doctor at one of Shanghai’s top hospitals said 70% of the megacity’s population may now have been infected with COVID-19, state media reported yesterday.