These countries are implementing COVID restrictions for travelers from China
As China continues to struggle with a massive COVID surge weeks after abandoning most zero-COVID policies, the United States as well as several countries in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East are implementing new restrictions for Chinese residents on entry.
At least 17 countries are now either requiring travelers from China to undergo a COVID test or are increasing virus surveillance measures. Morocco is the only country so far that is banning all travelers from China.
The European Union on Wednesday issued recommendations for all member states to impose pre-flight testing and to monitor waste water on flights arriving from China.
China has condemned the new travel restrictions as "unacceptable" and has denied manipulating COVID data.
"Some countries have no scientific basis for restricting entries from China, and some excessive practices are even more unacceptable," Mao Ning, China's foreign ministry spokeswoman, said on Tuesday. "We firmly oppose the practice of manipulating Covid prevention and control measures to achieve political goals, and will take corresponding measures in accordance with the principle of reciprocity according to different situations.”
U.S. health authorities on Wednesday announced that airline passengers arriving from China will be required to take a COVID test before arrival in the U.S., no more than two days before departure. Both self-administered antigen and clinic-administered PCR tests are acceptable.
The rules also apply to passengers transiting through a second destination before arriving in the U.S. People who have tested positive for COVID more than 10 days before the flight can opt to provide documentation of their infection rather than a negative test.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) noted that while COVID variants continue to surface in countries around the world, China's "reduced testing and case reporting" and "minimal sharing of viral genomic sequence data could delay the identification of new variants of concern if they arise."
The measures take effect on Jan. 5.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Tuesday announced that all travelers who have travelled within China within the last seven days will be required to undergo a COVID test on arrival in Japan. Those that test positive will have to quarantine at a designated facility for a week.
The government is also limiting the amount of flights from China, and only four airports in Japan will be allowed to process arrivals from China. Passengers from Hong Kong and Macau are exempt from the testing requirement so long as they have not travelled to the mainland within the last week.
The measures will take effect on Dec. 30.
Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Saturday announced that all travelers inbound from several Asian countries, including Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, and China will need to undergo a COVID test upon arrival. Passengers who test positive will be required to quarantine.
Mandaviya had previously told parliament that the new restrictions were due to a surge in cases in China, according to Al Jazeera.
Malaysia updated its health protocols on Friday and will now scan all arriving passengers for fever. Additionally, the health ministry announced that it would screen wastewater for COVID from aircrafts arriving from China.
Initially, the Ministry of Health said that it would just be strengthening its virus tracking and surveillance systems, according to state news agency Bernama.
Italy's health ministry on Wednesday announced that all passengers arriving from China must undergo a COVID test, effectively immediately.
Milan's regional health chief on Wednesday said that the measures were necessary after finding that nearly half of all passengers arriving on two flights from China tested positive for the virus.
Starting Jan. 1, all airline passengers from China and boat passengers arriving at two offshore islands will need to test for COVID upon arrival in Taiwan, the country's epidemic control office announced on Wednesday. The measures do not apply for arrivals from Hong Kong and Macau.
Those who test positive will be able to quarantine at home. The guidelines primarily impact Taiwanese residents and their family members, as Chinese tourists have been prohibited from visiting Taiwan since 2019.
The Spanish government on Friday became the second E.U. country to require all passengers arriving from China to provide a negative PCR or antigen test. However, passengers who have proof that they are fully vaccinated are exempt from the guidelines, and the government said some Chinese-made vaccines are acceptable.
Newly-appointed Health Minister Arye Dery on Friday announced that Chinese nationals will need to show a negative PCR test before boarding flights to Israel, taken no more than three days before the date of departure. It is unclear when the new measures will be implemented.
Israeli citizens and other foreign nationals en route from China are not required to show a PCR test, but they will have the option of taking a rapid test upon arrival in Israel, Dery added.
Effective Jan. 2, all passengers arriving from China will need to undergo a PCR test at Incheon Airport -- the only airport currently accepting flights from China, South Korea authorities announced on Friday. Starting Jan. 5, all passengers from China will additionally need to submit a PCR test taken no more than 48 hours before departure, or a rapid-screening test taken no more than 24 hours before departure.
The South Korean government said that it will limit the number of short-term visas granted to Chinese nationals for at least one month, and it will also pause increasing flights from China.
While an official announcement is still pending, defense secretary Ben Wallace said Friday the U.K. will issue a "clarification" on travel updates. The BBC reported that the government will soon require all passengers traveling from China to provide a negative COVID test before departure. Specifics about acceptable types of tests and the date of implementation are yet to be announced.
Citing “the limited epidemiological and viral genomic sequence data available” on recent COVID-19 cases in China, the Canadian government is requiring travelers flying into Canada from China, Hong Kong, and Macau to test negative for COVID at least two days before departure, authorities in Ottawa said.
The new requirements will take effect on Jan 5.
Australia’s health minister Mark Butler announced Sunday that those traveling from China, Hong Kong, and Macau will need to present a negative COVID test starting Jan. 5.
However, there is disagreement among the country's top medical officials on whether new measures should be rolled out. According to Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly, there was not a "significant public health rationale" for the requirements and no major threat of the new variant.
According to the South China Morning Post, some Australians questioned the health authorities' strategy when the country is allowing a "let it rip" COVID strategy unfold at home.
France has encouraged all 26 European Union states to test inbound travelers from China for COVID.
The country itself has required arrivals from China to show a negative COVID test from no more than 48 hours before departure. According to a government official, France will also carry out random PCR tests on travelers from the mainland.
Starting Jan. 3, Morocco will impose a ban on all travelers from China, regardless of nationality, the foreign ministry said.
Health Minister Karl Lauterbach on Thursday said he would enact the E.U.'s recommendations, requiring at least a negative rapid test before departure for passengers arriving from China. The country will also impose random checks on passengers.
Health officials in Sweden on Thursday said they would enact E.U. recommendations, but the testing requirement would not apply to Swedish citizens, permanent residents, or E.U. and European Economic Area long-term residents. Mandatory pre-flight testing begins Jan. 7.
Belgian Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke said Thursday the country would begin implementing E.U. testing recommendations.
There are concerns over the lack of transparent data from China about its COVID cases, according to the Washington Post.
According to internal government documents obtained by the Financial Times, 250 million people in China caught COVID in the first 20 days of December, but state media only reported 62,592 symptomatic cases during this time frame.
Videos and photos from China appear to show overwhelmed hospitals and funeral homes despite officials insisting that the situation remains under control. Pharmacies are also experiencing a severe shortage of cold and flu drugs, including ibuprofen and acetaminophen, as people "panic buy."
One viral video appeared to show people raiding a pharmacy that was reportedly handing out free fever medication.
- The Financial Times reports that China is running low on the only foreign-made, anti-viral drug approved by health authorities: Paxlovid. According to the paper, the country's elite are stockpiling the drug and using it to treat family members infected with COVID or to "curry favor with business associates."