• China lifts quarantine for overseas visitors on Sunday
  • Greece joins countries imposing travel restrictions on China
  • Travel rush, holidays can trigger virus outbreaks

SHANGHAI/BEIJING (Reuters) – Days before China lifts border controls and the long-awaited resumption of travel for people who are mostly staying at home, more countries around the world are lining up to allow more countries to travel from China. Requires visitors to be tested for the novel coronavirus. 3 years.

Starting Sunday, China will end its quarantine requirements for inbound travelers. This is the latest dismantling of the ‘zero COVID’ regime that began last month following a series of historic protests against a smothering mass lockdown.

But the sudden change exposed much of China’s 1.4 billion population to the virus for the first time, sparking a wave of infections that overwhelmed some hospitals, emptied pharmacy shelves and sparked international alarm. rice field.

Greece, Germany and Sweden joined more than a dozen countries on Thursday to warn Chinese travelers about COVID-19, as the World Health Organization (WHO) said China’s official virus data underreported the true extent of the outbreak. requested a test.

Chinese officials and state media have struck a defiant tone, defending the outbreak’s response, downplaying the severity of the surge, and denouncing the requirement for residents to travel abroad.

The Global Times, published by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, said, “Some Western media and some Western politicians will never be satisfied with how China decides to deal with the COVID-19 epidemic. I won’t,” he wrote.

The global aviation industry, hit hard by years of pandemic containment, was also critical of the decision to impose tests on travelers from China. China will still require pre-departure inspections for inbound travelers after January 8th.

Some Chinese citizens think the reopening is too hasty.

“They should have taken a series of steps before they opened … and at least made sure the pharmacy was well stocked,” a 70-year-old man identified as Zhao told Reuters in Shanghai. rice field.

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

But that is at odds with the reality of the scene, where funeral homes are overwhelmed and hospitals are overwhelmed 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 coronavirus deaths does not reflect the true death toll, which could reach more than 1 million deaths this year. increase.

Investors are optimistic that China’s reopening could finally revive its $17 trillion economy, which has been struggling with the slowest growth rate in nearly half a century.

Those hopes, along with policy measures to help revive the troubled property sector, boosted China’s yuan on Friday.

On the other hand, China’s leading CSI300 index is (.CSI300) and the Shanghai Composite Index (.SSEC) It rose over 2% in the first trading week of the year.

HSBC’s head of equities Gerardo van der Linde said: “With the number of coronavirus cases soaring and the health care system ever expanding, reopening is likely to be difficult, but we are confident that we will continue to do so. “Economists expect growth to pick up momentum across Asia, led by China.” Strategy, Asia-Pacific, said in a note.

Southeast Asia Open

The mainland will also open its border with the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region on Sunday for the first time in three years, as the Chinese New Year holiday rolls out later this month.

Ferry services between the city and Macau’s gambling hubs will resume on the same day.

Cathay Pacific Airways in Hong Kong (0293.HK) On Thursday, it said flights to mainland China would more than double. Flights to and from China remain at a fraction of pre-COVID levels.

The WHO said the holiday, which starts on January 21 and typically results in the largest human movement on earth as people head home from cities to visit families in small towns and villages, is likely to see higher vaccination rates. It warned that if not, it could trigger another wave of infections. Fees and other considerations.

Officials expect 2.1 billion passenger trips by road, rail, water and air over the New Year holidays to double the 1.05 billion during the same period last year.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism is urging people to minimize the risk of infection for elderly relatives, pregnant women, and infants.

One region poised to be a major beneficiary of China’s opening up is Southeast Asia, where countries do not require Chinese visitors to undergo COVID testing.

Aside from testing airline wastewater for the virus by Malaysia and Thailand, 11 countries in the region treat Chinese travelers the same as other countries.

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

While many people in China are using social media to announce their travel plans, 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.

Reporting by Brenda Goe from Shanghai, Bernard Orr from Beijing, Martin Pollard, Liz Lee, Farrer Master from Hong Kong and Xinghui Kok from Singapore. Written by John Geddy.Editing by Robert Barthel

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.