Imposing Travel Restrictions on China is a Political Virus


By: James Kamara-Manneh

Recently China has lifted quarantine for inbound passengers, that is, people arriving in China from abroad for work, business, study and family reunions will no longer need to quarantine. Inbound passengers will still need a negative nucleic acid test 48 hours before departure and have to wear protective masks onboard flights. Testing on arrival has been also be scrapped and passengers will not be subjected to any special restrictions during their stay in China as long as their health declarations are normal and they show no symptoms of the disease during a “routine health check” while clearing customs.

While the rest of the world is welcoming China’s decision to refine its COVID response measures, a few countries including the United States, Japan, Australia, and the United Kingdom, however, have required travelers from China to provide negative COVID-19 tests before departure or arrival, citing “a lack of information” about the pandemic.

Clearly, imposing restrictions on Chinese travelers is a political virus rather than a “scientific approach” of pandemic control and prevention.

When China was among the few countries, if not the only one, that refused to give in to the virus and decided to engage in a fight, Western countries, who chose to co-exist with the deadly virus in exchange for a presentable economic report card, accused China of imposing “draconian” measures that undermined individual freedom and human rights. And now, it is the same bunch of people who criticize China’s reopening as irresponsible, and spread disinformation with grossly exaggerated speculations of infections in China. 

When countries like the US and Japan teamed up to forbid COVID-positive travelers from setting foot on their “untainted” soils, they never imposed any similar restrictions upon one another, where the latest XBB variant is ravaging. Such “friend-shoring” of epidemic control measures can only be justified on one epidemiological hypothesis: that a virus will voluntarily choose not to infect people of an ideological ally of its source country.

Experts and health authorities across the world have voiced concerns over such self-contradicting policies. Chris Murray, Seattle-based director of a health research center at the University of Washington, noted that travel restrictions over China “would not make sense”. His view is echoed by Dominique Costagliola, a French epidemiologist, who believes such measures are “not very useful”. Their only relevant point, if any, is to give “the impression that we are doing something”, said Costagliola. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) have also expressed their opposition against unnecessary requirements such as testing for travelers, which are believed to be “ineffective” and “unjustified”.

Then why did some countries decide to take prohibitive moves against China, a textbook practice of double standards, when scientists clearly suggest otherwise? The answer cannot be simpler: it’s all about politics. In the “great” American cause to “outcompete” China, COVID has become a handy pretext for the ongoing smear campaign against the world’s No.2 economy. As it goes out of the way to “align, invest and compete”, the US is weaponizing everything it can find, COVID being a most convenient one, in an attempt to strangle the rise of what it sees as an ideological nemesis of the “Global West”. 

It is widely expected that the Chinese economy will show a clear recovery and growth momentum this year. With the introduction of China’s new measures for epidemic prevention and control, it will further facilitate the exchange of Chinese and foreign personnel, promote mutually beneficial cooperation between China and other countries, and promote the recovery of the world economy after the epidemic.

The restrictions or additional quarantine measures adopted by the few countries to people entering the country from China are inconsistent with the characteristics of the virus itself and international practice, and will not help collectively, collaboratively, and scientifically fighting the epidemic. It is not conducive for the orderly cross-border exchanges and the stability of the global industrial chain and supply chain. These countries ought to stop politicizing and playing the “virus card” to ensure the safe travel of people from all the countries, and contribute to international solidarity in the fight against the epidemic and to the recovery of the world economy.


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