COVID travel restrictions against Chinese visitors ‘discriminatory’ – state media

  • The US, Japan and others require COVID tests from Chinese visitors
  • EU experts will hold a crisis meeting next week
  • WHO and China discuss the pandemic

BEIJING/MADRID, Dec 30 (Reuters) – Chinese state media has hit out at a growing number of foreign governments imposing COVID tests on travelers from China, calling the measures “discriminatory”.

After keeping its borders nearly closed for three years, imposing a strict lockdown regime and relentless testing, Beijing suddenly reversed course on living with the virus on December 7, and infections have spread rapidly in recent weeks.

South Korea and Spain on Friday joined a growing list of countries including United States, India and others who have mandatory COVID tests for travelers from China over concerns about the scale of the COVID outbreak and skepticism about Beijing’s health statistics.

Malaysia said it would screen all international cod arrivals.

“The real intention is to sabotage China’s three-year effort to control COVID-19 and attack the country’s system,” the state-run Global Times tabloid said in an article late Thursday, calling the restrictions “baseless” and “discriminatory.”

China will stop requiring incoming travelers to undergo quarantine from January 8. But will still require a negative PCR test result within 48 hours prior to departure.

Senior Chinese health officials held a video conference with the World Health Organization on Friday and exchanged views on the current epidemic situation, China’s National Health Commission said in a statement, without elaborating.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said earlier in the day that the organization needed more information to assess the latest spike in infections in China, without taking a position on the issue of travel testing.


Not all countries require testing. In particular, the members of the European Union are divided.

In recent days, officials in France, Germany and Portugal have said they see no need for new restrictions for now, while Austria has highlighted the economic benefits of Chinese tourists returning to Europe.

The global spending of Chinese visitors was worth it more than $250 billion annually before the pandemic.

Acting a day after EU health officials failed to agree on a joint course of action, Spain followed Italy’s lead to become the second of the bloc’s 27 members to require tests for travelers from China.

“Nationally, we will implement airport checks requiring all passengers coming from China to show a negative test for COVID-19 or proof of a full course of vaccination,” said Health Minister Carolina Darias.

EU health experts are expected to hold a crisis response meeting next week, according to an EU source.

Meanwhile, EU health chief Stella Kyriakides has written to the bloc’s health ministers to offer instant scaling genomic sequencing of COVID-19 infections and monitoring of wastewater, including from airports, to detect new variants given the rise of the virus in China.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also considering waste water sampling from international planes to track any emerging new variants, the agency told Reuters.

The United States has raised concerns about potential mutations of the virus as it passes through the world’s most populous country, as well as data transparency in China.

Meanwhile, a COVID vaccination campaign for German citizens in China has begun its pilot phase, German Ambassador to Beijing Patricia Flor announced on Twitter.

A shipment of 11,500 doses of BioNTech (22UAy.DE) the vaccine arrived last week, enough to give one shot to half of the roughly 20,000 German citizens living in China.


The lifting of restrictions in China, following widespread protests against them in November, has crowded hospitals and funeral homes across the country, with scenes of people on roadside IVs and hearse queues outside crematoriums fueling public anxiety.

Health experts say China is caught ill prepared from the reversal of policies long championed by President Xi Jinping.

They say that elderly people in rural areas may be particularly vulnerable due to inadequate medical resources. The Lunar New Year holiday next month, when hundreds of millions travel to their hometowns, will increase the risk.

China, a country of 1.4 billion people, reported one new death from COVID on Thursday, as well as the day before — numbers that do not match the experience of other countries since they reopened.

UK-based health data firm Airfinity reported on Thursday approx 9000 people in China probably die every day from COVID. China’s cumulative deaths since Dec. 1 may have reached 100,000, with infections totaling 18.6 million, it said.

China’s chief epidemiologist, Wu Zunyu, said on Thursday that the difference between the number of deaths in the current wave of infections and the death rate for the same period in non-pandemic years will be studied to calculate the “excess mortality” and assess any potential underestimation deaths from COVID-19.

Additional reporting by John Revill in Zurich, Kirsty Knole in Berlin, Phil Blenkinsip in Brussels; Written by Marius Zacharias and Ingrid Melander; Editing by Gerry Doyle, Simon Cameron-Moore and Tomasz Janowski

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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