Companies welcome end to China quarantines for visitors : NPR

Domestic tourists wait for hours to board buses leaving hotels and isolation facilities from Guangzhou Baiyun Airport in Guangdong province, southern China on December 25, 2022.

Emily Wang Fujiyama/AP

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Emily Wang Fujiyama/AP

Domestic tourists wait for hours to board buses leaving hotels and isolation facilities from Guangzhou Baiyun Airport in Guangdong province, southern China on December 25, 2022.

Emily Wang Fujiyama/AP

BEIJING – Companies hailed China’s decision to end quarantines for travelers from abroad as an important step to revive faltering business while Japan on Tuesday announced a limit restrict visitors from the country as infections increase.

The Communist Party took power suddenly decided to lift some of the world’s strictest antivirus controls until it tries to reverse the recession. It ended restrictive measures that kept millions indoors and sparked protests, but hospitals were flooded with feverish, wheezing patients as the virus spread.

Monday’s announcement that the quarantine for travelers from abroad will end on January 8 is the biggest step toward ending restrictions that have prevented most foreign travelers from leaving China. since the beginning of 2020. The quarantine period was reduced from seven days to five last month.

Also on Monday, the government downgraded the official severity of COVID-19 and dropped the requirement for people with the virus to be quarantined. That added to a series of swift steps to lift controls that are expected to remain in place at least through mid-2023.

“Finally, it looks like China has turned the tide,” said Colm Rafferty, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in China. He said the quarantine was the “biggest obstacle” to travel and that ending it would “clear the way for the resumption of normal business travel”.

Business groups have warned companies are moving investments out of China because foreign executives are barred from visiting.

The British Chamber of Commerce expressed hope that China would restart normal business visa processing to allow “the resumption of important people for people-to-people exchanges.” It said that would “contribute to restoring optimism and restoring China as a preferred investment destination.”

Meanwhile, Japan said all visitors from China will be tested for the virus starting Friday as a “temporary emergency measure” to deal with the wave of infections in the country.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced that travelers who test positive will be quarantined for a week. He said Japan will also reduce its plans to increase the number of flights between Japan and China “to ensure safety.”

“There’s more and more anxiety in Japan,” Kishida said.

A State Department spokesman defended China’s handling of the latest outbreaks.

“The Chinese government has always followed the principle of science-based and targeted measures,” said Wang Wenbin. He called for a “science-based response and coordinated approach” to keep travel safe and “promote a steady and healthy recovery of the world economy.”

China keeps infection rates low with a “no COVID” strategy that aims to stamp out virus transmission by isolating every case. That makes claims controls too extreme and counterproductive.

However, starting last month, the ruling party has gradually joined the US and other governments trying to live with the virus by treating the infections instead of imposing a full-blown quarantine. for cities or neighborhoods.

The ruling party announced changes on November 11 that it says are intended to ease disruptions following a slide in economic activity. More changes were announced after protests broke out on November 25 in Shanghai and other cities.

The government has stopped reporting the number of cases nationwide but announcements by several cities suggest that at least dozens and possibly hundreds of millions of people may have been infected since the outbreak began at the beginning of the month. ten.

The outbreaks have prompted Beijing to complain about the abrupt easing of control measures. Officials say the wave started before the changes.

Lu Haoming, an architect in Beijing, said the government “should have done this job more meticulously”. “Although the mortality rate of this disease is not as severe as it seems at first, the first shock is still quite severe.”

China only counts deaths from pneumonia or respiratory failure in its official COVID-19 figures, a health official said last week. That doesn’t include many of the deaths that other countries attribute to COVID-19.

Experts have forecast 1 to 2 million deaths in China by the end of 2023.

The National Health Commission announced a campaign on November 29 to raise vaccination rates among older Chinese. Health experts say it’s crucial to avoiding a healthcare crisis.

On Monday, the National Health Commission downgraded COVID-19 from a class A infectious disease to a class B disease and removed it from the list of diseases requiring isolation. It said authorities would stop tracking close contacts and designate areas of high or low risk of infection.


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