Covid rules for travellers shifting worldwide
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Covid rules for travellers shifting worldwide

Many countries updating or changing testing and other requirements as travel from China resumes

A South Korean soldier leads a group of Chinese tourists to a Covid-19 testing centre upon their arrival at Incheon International Airport near Seoul on Wednesday. (Photo: Reuters)
A South Korean soldier leads a group of Chinese tourists to a Covid-19 testing centre upon their arrival at Incheon International Airport near Seoul on Wednesday. (Photo: Reuters)

China may be reopening, allowing its 1.4 billion people to come and go largely without restrictions, but just as it is, more and more countries are tightening measures for travellers from the world’s second-biggest economy, concerned the tsunami of virus cases there may spawn new Covid variants.

In early December, China did away with almost all domestic Covid restrictions in one fell swoop. That has resulted in the virus running wild and unchecked through its population, with almost 37 million people possibly having been infected on a single day in late December.

From Jan 8, China will also scrap its quarantine requirement for inbound travellers, a step that is seen as making it more likely for people to travel abroad after almost three years of total isolation.

While China has been the world’s biggest source of outbound tourists pre-pandemic and will likely reclaim that title soon, other countries are now becoming wary that the return of travellers from China could spark a Covid resurgence in their own populations.

Here’s a list of the new measures different regions are imposing, updated to Jan 5.

Hong Kong: People travelling from the mainland will need to show a 48-hour negative PCR test result. Travelling via land borders is capped at 50,000 people per day while some land control points, including Lo Wu, will stay shut initially, Chief Executive John Lee said on Thursday.

Thailand: Thailand is mandating Covid insurance for foreign visitors from countries that require negative PCR test results before returning home. This will ensure that visitors who test positive for the virus will be able to afford treatment in Thailand before travelling out, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said on Thursday. As well, all international arrivals must show proof of at least two Covid shots, a requirement that had been scrapped last October.

India: India has made a PCR test mandatory for people coming in from China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Thailand since Jan 1.

Australia: Passengers departing mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau will require a negative Covid test taken within 48 hours before travelling to Australia. The temporary measure, effective from Jan 5, has been put in place because of a “lack of comprehensive information” about the situation in China, Health Minister Mark Butler said.

“The decision to implement these temporary measures has been made out of an abundance of caution, taking into account the dynamic and evolving situation in China and the potential for new variants to emerge in an environment of high transmission,” the minister said in a statement.

Canada: Travellers entering Canada from mainland China, Hong Kong or Macau aged two years and older will need to provide evidence of a negative PCR Covid test or rapid antigen test. People who tested positive more than 10 days before their flight but no more than 90 days can provide the airline with documentation of their prior infection, in place of a negative test result.

The government’s actions are guided by prudence and are part of necessary steps to keep Canadians safe in the face of the pandemic, said the country’s minister of health Jean-Yves Duclos, according to a government statement.

The measures will be in place for 30 days and will be reassessed as more data becomes available.

Morocco: Morocco is halting entry to all travellers coming from China regardless of their nationality to avoid a “new wave of contaminations” in the country, according to a government statement.

The action stands as the harshest so far out of the places that have introduced rules for travellers from China. Most of these countries require Covid testing, while Japan has restricted direct flights from mainland China to designated airports in the country.

United Kingdom: The UK has introduced a requirement for negative Covid tests for all travellers arriving from China, according to a government travel advice. From Jan 5, anyone travelling to England from mainland China on direct flights will be asked to take a pre-departure Covid test, to be checked by airlines before departure.

France: Passengers travelling to France from China must present a negative Covid test before boarding flights. French authorities will also randomly test people arriving from China at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris starting on Sunday, government officials said. Genetic sequencing will be done on positive samples in order to spot potential new variants. The French government also advised people to delay any non-essential travel to China.

Spain: Passengers arriving from China will need to submit to a Covid test or prove that their Covid vaccinations are up to date by providing a digital certificate, Carolina Darias, Spain’s health minister, said at a news conference in Madrid on Dec 30.

Spain’s principal concern is the potential emergence of new Covid variants in China, Darias added.

South Korea: South Korea will require travellers to take Covid tests before and after they arrive from China, Prime Minister Han Duk-soo said on Dec 30. Korea will also limit short-term visa issuance until the end of January and suspend any increases in flights from China.

In addition, all flights from China will be required to arrive at Incheon International Airport for the efficient management of inbound travellers.

South Korea has asked its citizens to try to minimise travel to China, according to a statement from Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.

Malaysia: Malaysia is working to improve its digital management system to track individuals who have a positive Covid test result. Positive cases will be given a home surveillance order and a release order digitally.

The country will also test wastewater samples from all flights from China in addition to fever screening for all international arrivals, including from China.

Italy: Italy has introduced a mandatory rapid Covid-19 test for all passengers entering the country from China, according to a health ministry statement. The new measure also applies to passengers in transit.

The first European country to be hit hard by Covid in early 2020, Italy is also urging other countries in the region to adopt a collective testing agreement, given they’re part of the open-border Schengen Area.

The move came after authorities in Milan earlier said that almost half of the passengers on two flights from China tested positive for the virus. Most weren’t showing any symptoms.

European health officials on Thursday called the extra screenings and restrictions on travellers from China unjustified, however. Europeans now have high levels of protection against Covid and health systems on the continent are equip to handle infections, they said.

United States: The US will require airline passengers coming from China to show a negative Covid-19 test result, regardless of their nationality or vaccination status, from Jan 5.

Travellers who were also in the country 10 days prior to their departure to the US will have to show either a negative PCR or antigen test, federal health officials said Wednesday. The requirement also applies to travellers from Hong Kong and Macau.

Passengers who tested positive more than 10 days before travelling can provide documentation and proof of recovery from Covid in lieu of a negative test result. Airlines will need to confirm the negative Covid test or documentation of recovery prior to boarding any flight to the US.

Taiwan: People who travel from mainland China to Taiwan during January will be subject to PCR testing upon arrival, according to the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control. Those who test positive will need to serve a five-day home quarantine.

Japan: The Japanese government put in place emergency Covid measures from Dec 30 to tighten restrictions on travel from China. Authorities now require travellers from mainland China and those who were there within seven days to conduct a Covid test upon arrival, and to quarantine for a week if they test positive.

The country on Thursday reversed its restriction that limited access to certain airports for direct flights from Hong Kong and Macau, on condition passengers have no travel history to mainland China within seven days. Restrictions for direct flights from China will remain.

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