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Citizens wonder, countries concerned at China’s sudden move from zero-Covid to full relaxation

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(TibetanReview.net, Dec28’22) – After the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic spun out of control just recently in a resounding failure of President Xi Jinping’s repeated vows to eliminate the virus with a zero-Covid policy enforced with draconian ruthlessness for three years, China is now to begin to issue visas to let in visitors without being required to submit to Covid tests and passports to those seeking to travel abroad from Jan 8. The Chinese government’s move has forced countries to adopt entry restrictions and left citizens wondering why they had to suffer all these years.

China announced Dec 26 that it will resume issuing ordinary visas and passports in another big step away from anti-virus controls that isolated the country for almost three years, setting up a potential flood of millions of Chinese going abroad for next month’s Lunar New Year holiday, reported the AP Dec 28.

The decision could send an influx of free-spending Chinese tourists to revenue-starved destinations in Asia and Europe for Lunar New Year, which begins Jan 22. But it also presents a danger they might spread covid as infections surge in China, the report said.

Virologists are watching nervously to see how this may impact Covid-19 variants and their global spread, with some countries already ramping up precautionary measures, said theguardian.com Dec 28.

Indeed, nations across the globe are implementing or considering measures to test or restrict travelers from China as the country of 1.4 billion abandons its Covid Zero policy and prepares to reopen borders in early Jan 2023, said the bloomberg.com Dec 28.

Japan moved quickly on Dec 27 to announce steps requiring a negative Covid-19 test upon arrival soon after Beijing’s decision. India announced similar measures.

And the US is considering new coronavirus precautions for people traveling from China due to mounting concerns over the renewed risk of infections spreading, the report cited American officials as saying.

“They’ve changed very quickly from a zero Covid approach to completely relaxing things, so maybe that’s happened too quickly to keep up,” Australian infectious diseases physician Prof Dominic Dwyer, who was one of the experts tasked with travelling to Wuhan early in 2021 to investigate the origins of the pandemic in a report for the World Health Organization (WHO), has told theguardian.com.

“There are mounting concerns in the international community on the ongoing Covid-19 surges in China and the lack of transparent data, including viral genomic sequence data,” the bbc.com and news agencies Dec 28 quoted US officials as saying in a statement.

On its part, Beijing said it will no longer subject inbound travelers to quarantine from Jan 8.

But many in China itself have also expressed concern online about borders reopening as Covid cases peak, the report noted.

“I’m happy about it but also speechless. If we’re doing this [reopening] anyway – why did I have to suffer all the daily Covid tests and lockdowns this year?” the bbc.com report quoted Rachel Liu, who lives in Shanghai, as saying.

The report said China’s about-turn had put Mr Xi in a tough spot. He was the driving force behind zero-Covid, which many blamed for restricting people’s lives excessively and crippling the economy.

But having abandoned it, analysts say he now has to take responsibility for the huge wave of infections and hospital admissions. Many have questioned why the country was not better prepared, the report added.

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