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Travel restrictions tighten as COVID-hit China prepares to reopen Reuters

Travel restrictions tighten as COVID-hit China prepares to reopen Reuters

#Travel #restrictions #tighten #COVIDhit #China #prepares #reopen #Reuters Welcome to Alaska Green Light Blog, here is the new story we have for you today:

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©Reuters. Patients lie on beds in the emergency room of a hospital amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Shanghai, China January 5, 2023. REUTERS/Staff TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY 2/3

By Brenda Goh and Martin Quin Pollard

SHANGHAI/BEJING (Reuters) – A growing number of countries around the world are requiring visitors from China to take COVID tests days before it drops border controls and ushers in a much-anticipated return to travel for a population that has largely been silent for three years stuck at home .

Starting Sunday, China will end mandatory quarantine for inbound travelers, the latest dismantling of its “zero-COVID” regime that began last month after historic protests against a stifling series of mass lockdowns.

But the abrupt changes have exposed many of China’s 1.4 billion people to the virus for the first time, sparking a wave of infections that is overwhelming some hospitals, emptying pharmacy shelves of medicines and sparking international concern.

Greece, Germany and Sweden joined more than a dozen countries on Thursday in demanding COVID testing from Chinese travelers, as the World Health Organization said China’s official virus data was underreporting the true extent of its outbreak.

Chinese officials and state media have struck a defiant tone, defending the handling of the outbreak, downplaying the seriousness of the surge and denouncing overseas travel requirements for its residents.

“No matter how China decides to deal with the COVID-19 epidemic, some Western media and some Western politicians will never be satisfied,” the Global Times, published by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, wrote in an editorial late Thursday.

The global airline industry, which has been hit by years of pandemic restrictions, has also criticized decisions to impose tests on travelers from China. China will continue to require pre-departure testing for inbound travelers after Jan. 8.

Some Chinese citizens think the reopening was too hasty.

“They should have taken a number of measures before opening … and at least made sure pharmacies were well stocked,” a 70-year-old man, who gave his last name as Zhao, told Reuters in Shanghai.

China reported five new mainland COVID deaths Thursday, bringing the official virus death toll to 5,264, one of the lowest in the world.

But that’s at odds with the reality on the ground, where funeral homes are overcrowded and hospitals are overflowing with elderly patients on ventilators. In Shanghai, more than 200 taxi drivers are driving ambulances to meet demand for emergency services, the Shanghai Morning Post reported.

International health experts believe Beijing’s narrow definition of COVID deaths does not reflect a true figure, which could soar to more than a million deaths this year.

Investors are optimistic that China’s reopening can eventually revive a $17 trillion economy that is suffering from the lowest growth in almost half a century.

Those hopes, along with policy moves to revive the ailing real estate sector, faded on Friday.

Meanwhile, both China’s blue-chip CSI300 index and the index are up more than 2% in the first week of trading of the year.

“While reopening is likely to be a bumpy proposition amid rising COVID-19 cases and increasingly stretched healthcare systems, our economists expect growth momentum to pick up across Asia, led by China,” Herald van der Linde (NYSE:), The head of equity strategy at HSBC, Asia Pacific said in a note.

SOUTHEAST ASIA OPEN

With the big Lunar New Year holiday later this month, the mainland will also open the border with its Hong Kong SAR for the first time in three years on Sunday.

Ferry services between the city and the Macau gambling hub will resume on the same day.

Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways (OTC:) said Thursday it would more than double flights to mainland China. Flights to and from China remain at a tiny fraction of pre-COVID levels.

The WHO has warned that without higher vaccinations, the holiday, which begins on January 21 and usually sees the world’s largest migration of people, when people travel home from cities to visit families in small towns and villages, could open up another wave of infections could trigger prices and other precautionary measures.

Authorities expect 2.1 billion passenger trips by road, rail, sea and air during the holiday, double the 1.05 billion trips made over the same period last year.

The Department for Transport has urged people to exercise caution to minimize the risk of infection for elderly relatives, pregnant women and infants.

One region poised to be a big beneficiary of China’s opening up is Southeast Asia, where countries have not required Chinese visitors to carry out COVID tests.

With the exception of plane sewage testing by Malaysia and Thailand for the virus, the region’s 11 nations will treat Chinese travelers like everyone else.

According to a recent survey by the ITB China trade fair, 76% of Chinese travel agencies ranked Southeast Asia as a top travel destination if outbound travel resumed.

Many people in China are taking to social media to announce their travel plans, but some remain cautious.

“You want to see the world, but the world may not want to see you,” warned a WeChat user from the city of Tianjin.

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