China warns of measures against ‘unacceptable’ travel restrictions

China has not been releasing any data on the virus nor the deaths taking place in the country

Updated - January 03, 2023 08:02 pm IST

Published - January 03, 2023 07:17 pm IST - Beijing

Health workers guide travellers arriving from China at a COVID-19 testing centre at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul on January 3, 2023.

Health workers guide travellers arriving from China at a COVID-19 testing centre at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul on January 3, 2023. | Photo Credit: AFP

The Chinese government said on January 3, 2023 it would take “corresponding measures” based on “reciprocity” as it slammed what it called “unacceptable” travel restrictions imposed recently by many countries on travellers from China.

Following the surge in COVID-19 cases in China in the wake of the phasing out of “zero-COVID” measures on December 7, a number of countries have imposed special travel requirements on travellers from the country, such as requiring pre-departure PCR tests. With Beijing stopping mass testing and no longer announcing accurate daily numbers, some countries have expressed concerns on the possibility of new variants emerging, as the country reports tens of thousands of new cases even as it eases restrictions on international travel after three years.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning on Tuesday said “many countries have responded warmly” to China’s opening.

“We stand ready to step up communication with the rest of the international community and work together to prevail over COVID. Meanwhile, we do not believe the entry restriction measures some countries have taken against China are science-based,” she said.

“Some of these measures are disproportionate and simply unacceptable. We firmly reject using COVID measures for political purposes and will take corresponding measures in response to varying situations based on the principle of reciprocity…. They should not be used for political manipulation, there should not be discriminatory measures against certain countries, and measures should not affect normal travel and people-to-people exchange and cooperation.”

Also Read | China state media says current COVID infection ‘relatively mild for vast majority of people’

It remains unclear what response China might take, as Beijing, which is still continuing its three year-long practice of quarantining all international arrivals until January 8 when it finally opens its borders, will itself require all travellers to China to take PCR tests before travelling to the country once it stops mandatory quarantines next week.

Meanwhile, Chinese authorities have said no new variants have emerged in screening of cases in China. Ms. Mao said China had shared the genome data of latest cases through the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data (GISAID) platform.

So far, “at least 30 known Omicron variants” had shown up in screening in Shanghai, the Communist Party-run Global Times quoted researchers as saying on Tuesday.

In addition to the dominant BA.5.2 variant in southern China and BF.7 in the north, both of which had already been detected in the West, subvariants BQ.1 and XBB were recently detected in Shanghai among international arrivals, the report said.

Also Read | WHO seeks more data, regular updates from China on COVID situation

In recent days, viral social media posts in China about XBB have triggered a massive rush to purchase stomach medicines in several Chinese cities because of concerns of the variant triggering digestive problems.

Even as many countries continue to worry about new variants emerging in China, within China there has been alarm about variants such as XBB coming into the country, amid the continued surge of local cases.

Since the December 7 opening, the country has seen what is essentially its first major national wave of COVID-19 cases. While most have reported to have been mild according to the National Health Commission, the sheer number of cases has placed enormous pressure on the hospital system.

Experts fear tens of thousands of deaths among the large unvaccinated elderly population. While the government has not released data on current COVID-19 deaths, crematoria in many Chinese cities have reported record waiting times during the ongoing surge of cases.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.