Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said that starting Friday, all Chinese visitors to Japan will have to take a test. This is because of COVID-19. At the same time, Beijing said it would get rid of mandatory quarantine for people coming from abroad.
The news comes just a few days after the World Health Organization (WHO) said it was very worried about the rise in reports of severe cases in China after the country mostly stopped following its “zero-COVID” policy.
Even though there have been more cases, Beijing has played down the spread of the virus. This is after spending the better part of three years locking down whole neighbourhoods and cities because of a few cases.
It said on Tuesday that the coronavirus threat level would go down on January 8 and that people from the mainland would be able to travel abroad more easily.
The focus of China’s COVID response has shifted from “infection prevention” to “health protection and severe illness prevention”.
— Hua Chunying 华春莹 (@SpokespersonCHN) December 28, 2022
Since 2020, almost no Chinese tourists have gone abroad. For years, this was a big part of the global tourism industry. Also, people coming from outside the country will no longer have to stay in quarantine, but they will still need a negative test result within 48 hours of departure and to wear masks on the plane.
A spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Wang Wenbin, said that China has been “refining its COVID response in light of how the situation is changing” while working with the rest of the world.
Even though Beijing has given the go-ahead for the country to open up, other governments are making it harder for Chinese tourists to visit because they are worried about the rise in cases in China.
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In Japan, everyone coming from mainland China will have to take the quantitative antigen test that is already done on people suspected of having COVID-19. Those who test positive will be kept in a quarantine area for seven days, and their samples will be used to study the genome.
The measure starts on Friday, right before the New Year’s holidays in Japan, when people are likely to get sick more because they are going to parties and travelling.
Last week, India also told travellers from China, Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Thailand that they have to get a COVID-19 test, and they have to stay in quarantine if they have symptoms or test positive. India has also started testing at random 2% of international airport passengers from other countries.
China’s provisional measures on cross-border travel will take effect on January 8 Beijing time. China will continue to make COVID response more science-based and targeted, and better facilitate the safe and orderly cross-border travel of Chinese and foreign nationals. pic.twitter.com/7CQh9AABS5
— Spokesperson发言人办公室 (@MFA_China) December 27, 2022
Kishida said that China’s lack of openness and sharing of information about the infections made it hard to assess the situation and figure out how to keep people safe. He said that there are big differences between what the central government and local governments say and what the government and private groups say.
“There are growing worries in Japan,” Kishida said. “We have decided to take a temporary special measure to respond to the situation.”
But Wang seemed to criticise in a subtle way the steps Japan and India took to protect their borders. “China believes that the pandemic measures should be science-based and appropriate and should not affect normal personnel exchanges,” he said.
Kishida said that Japan’s new policy is not meant to stop people from moving around the world, but rather to “stop the rapid spread of infections in this country.” He also said that Japan would act in a flexible way and keep an eye on what was going on in China.
“Just to be safe,” he said, Japan might stop plans to increase flights between Japan and China. For now, only four major airports in Japan will be able to host direct flights between the two countries, government officials said.
“The measure is not going to affect Japan’s policy to continue with our ongoing transition toward a ‘with-COVID’ lifestyle carefully and steadily while watching the infections at home,” Kishida said.
Japan stopped requiring COVID-19 tests for people who had at least three shots earlier this year. This is part of the country’s careful easing of rules after closing its borders to foreign tourists for almost two years.
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