Several countries are imposing restrictions on travellers from China because of a surge in COVID-19 infections after the country rolled back its stringent “zero-Covid” policy.
From the United States to Japan, nations are worried that new variants could emerge from China’s continuing outbreak and that Beijing may not inform the rest of the world quickly enough. There have been no reports of new variants yet, but there is widespread concern over the lack of information and data from China.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has said it is very concerned about rising reports of severe cases across China after the country largely abandoned its “zero-COVID” policy.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in a series of tweets on Thursday, appealed to China to be more forthcoming with detailed data on the pandemic situation.
— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) December 29, 2022
While Beijing has moved to reopen its borders and will, from January 8, scrap mandatory quarantine for overseas arrivals, these countries have introduced curbs on arrivals from China:
The Israeli health ministry said it will impose COVID tests on foreigners intending to travel from China.
“It was decided to order that foreign airlines only accept foreign citizens on a flight from China to Israel if they have tested [negative] for COVID,” Health Minister Aryeh Deri said in a statement.
The minister also urged Israelis to avoid travel to China. He said a screening centre would be opened to test arrivals who volunteered.
From January 5, the US will impose mandatory COVID-19 tests for travellers from China. All air passengers aged two years and older will require a negative test no more than two days before departure from China, Hong Kong or Macau. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that Americans should reconsider travel to China, Hong Kong and Macau.
Starting Jan 5, 2023: Travelers flying to U.S. from China, or who have been in China in the past 10 days & are flying from certain airports, must show a negative #COVID19 test taken within 2 days before #travel to the US or documentation of recovery. https://t.co/VSJz2W6kPT pic.twitter.com/J9DujizieA
— CDC (@CDCgov) December 28, 2022
The US is also considering sampling wastewater from international aircraft to track new variants and has expanded its voluntary genomic sequencing programme at airports, adding Seattle and Los Angeles. This brings the total number of airports gathering information from positive tests to seven.
South Korea will test travellers from China for COVID-19 and restrict short-term visas for Chinese nationals.
Those arriving from China will be required to provide a negative PCR test within 48 hours of departure or a rapid antigen test taken within 24 hours, followed by a PCR test after arrival, Prime Minister Han Duck-soo said on Friday.
The testing on arrival and pre-departure tests will come into effect from January 2 and January 5, respectively.
Seoul will also temporarily halt the expansion of flights to China and limit all internal flights to Incheon International Airport, the country’s biggest, Han said.
Japan’s new border measures for China went into effect on Friday, just as the country heads into New Year’s holidays marked by parties and travel, when infections are expected to rise. Travellers from mainland China will need to have a negative COVID-19 test on arrival. Those who test positive will be quarantined for seven days at designated facilities and their samples will be used for genome analysis.
Direct flights between China and Japan will be limited to four major Japanese airports for now, the government said.
Malaysia on Friday said it will screen all inbound travellers for fever and test wastewater from aircraft arriving from China for COVID-19.
While health minister Zaliha Mustafa said the preventive measures were being taken as the country faces the risk of an influx of coronavirus cases from abroad, it was not immediately clear when they would go into effect.
From January 1, Taiwan will start testing arrivals from China for COVID-19. Its Central Epidemic Command Center said all passengers arriving on direct flights from China, as well as by boat at two offshore islands, will have to take PCR tests on arrival.
From January 1, people arriving in India from China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Thailand will have to show a COVID-19 negative test report.
Travellers from those countries will have to upload their test results on an Indian government website before their departure, health minister Mansukh Mandaviya wrote on Twitter on Thursday.
India has already started randomly testing two percent of all international passengers arriving at airports.
RT-PCR test has been made mandatory for flyers coming from China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Thailand from 1st January 2023. They will have to upload their reports on the Air Suvidha portal before travel.
— Dr Mansukh Mandaviya (@mansukhmandviya) December 29, 2022
Italy was the first country in Europe to order COVID-19 antigen swabs and virus sequencing for all travellers coming from China. The main airports in Milan and Rome have already started testing passengers arriving from Beijing and Shanghai.
Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said she “expects and hopes” the European Union will follow its lead on imposing mandatory tests for all passengers flying in from China.
Addressing a news conference on Thursday, Meloni said Italy’s measures – which also subject transit passengers to compulsory testing – risked being ineffective if not extended across the European Union.
Others in the largely borderless bloc either said they saw no need to follow suit or were waiting for a common stance across the 27 member states.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the bloc’s health agency, on Thursday said it believed an EU-wide introduction of mandatory COVID-19 screenings for travellers from China was currently “unjustified”.
It noted that the COVID-19 variants circulating in China are already circulating in the EU, and also said that higher immunity in the bloc means that a surge in China is not expected to affect the EU.
On Friday, Spain said it will require travellers from China to show a negative COVID-19 test or proof of complete vaccination, according to health minister Carolina Darias.
French government also said that passengers flying from China to France will have to present negative COVID test less than 48 hours old before embarking.
British media said on Friday that passengers arriving in Britain from China will require a negative test for COVID-19 after a surge in infections in China.
The Times and The Telegraph reported British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has weighed in to take the step. The BBC reported that the UK government is set to announce the China arrival policy, without providing a specific time.
Countries monitoring situation
The country said it was making no change to its rules regarding allowing travellers from China in. “There is no change in the travel advice at this point in time but we are continuing to monitor the situation, as we continue to monitor the impact of COVID here in Australia as well as around the world,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said.
The Southeast Asian country is being “very cautious” and could impose measures such as testing requirements on visitors from China, but not an outright ban, transport secretary Jaime Bautista said.