Taiwan to require PCRs, US mulls measures as Covid-19 wave sweeps China

Beijing, Dec 28 (EFE).- Taiwan became the latest country on Wednesday to introduce PCR tests for arrivals from China as Covid-19 cases continue to spread across the Asian nation after Beijing relaxed strict prevention measures that had been in place since early 2020.

As of January 1, people traveling from China by boat or plane will have to undergo a PCR test upon arrival in Taiwan and travelers who test positive will have to self-isolate for five days, Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center said in a statement.

A passenger airplane lands in Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing, China, 27 December 2022. EFE/EPA/WU HAO

The measure will come into effect before the Lunar New Year holidays, the largest annual migration in the world which in 2023 takes place from January 21- 27, and which sees many Taiwanese nationals return to the island from mainland China.

Other countries in the region have also announced fresh rules amid China’s growing Covid 19 caseload with Japan announcing on Tuesday that it was stepping up measures for travelers from China by requiring a PCR test upon arrival.

India also announced PCR tests for tourists traveling from China over the weekend and the new rules will also apply to travelers from Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Thailand.

The United States is currently mulling restrictions for Chinese arrivals amid concerns that Beijing has not been transparent with Covid data since reopening its borders. 

“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, being reported from the PRC,” US officials said in a statement, quoted by the ABC news network. 

 “Without this data, it is becoming increasingly difficult for public health officials to ensure that they will be able to identify any potential new variants and take prompt measures to reduce the spread,” the statement added.

In early December, the Chinese government announced that the “conditions” were in place for the country to adjust its measures to face a “new situation” in which the virus causes fewer deaths.

The virus’ spread has increased pressure on the Chinese health system, with local media outlets reporting fever patients crowding in the waiting areas of hospitals in some cities. 

The zero Covid policy, in place since 2020, was modified as people’s discontent with the restrictions resulted in protests across the country after 10 people allegedly died due to pandemic-related confinement at an apartment building that caught fire in Urumqi.

Protesters chanted slogans such as “I don’t want PCR, I want to eat,” or “return my freedom.” 

The government claims that the policy — which enforced mandatory isolation of all the infected people and their close contacts, strict border controls, partial or full lockdowns and constant PCR testing of the urban population — has saved millions of lives. 

The announcement that travel restrictions would be eased from January 8 sparked a run on international flight tickets in China.

The lifting of restrictions has triggered a wave of infections, with some provinces dealing with millions per day, experts say. Chinese authorities suspended their daily Covid-19 infection reports over the weekend.

Last week, the WHO said it was “very concerned” about the evolution of the disease in China and raised the alarm over the fact Beijing health authorities were no longer reporting on Covid-19 data.

China’s foreign affairs ministry said that Beijing had been sharing data in an open, punctual and transparent way since the start of the pandemic. EFE

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