SINGAPORE—Outbound air ticket sales surged as people jumped at the chance to put the stifling zero Covid restrictions on the back burner shortly after China announced it would be opening its borders to international travel for the first time in nearly three years.
Topping vacation wish lists were destinations in the immediate vicinity, with Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong and Japan being favorite choices. was there.
A growing number of countries are tightening restrictions on travelers from China. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Tuesday that travelers from China must test negative for Covid-19 upon arrival due to the rapid spread of the virus in China. He said it would limit the increase in flights to China requested.
Italy previously rolled out similar rules for visitors to fashion capital Milan’s Malpensa airport, but passengers to India must show a negative test result before boarding. South Korea has added China to its list of “tested countries”, requiring travelers to be tested for the novel coronavirus if their temperature exceeds 37.3 degrees Celsius (99.14 degrees Fahrenheit).
Besides escaping, another attraction of Hong Kong may be the chance to get one of the mRNA vaccines China has yet to approve for domestic use. Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical (Group) said Tuesday that people in mainland China can register with Pfizer via WeChat. Ltd.
BioNTech SE’s mRNA Covid vaccine in a semi-autonomous domain.
Agents said clients are sorting out paperwork if they haven’t booked a ticket. “The number of people applying for visas at the embassy surged as soon as they heard that quarantine on their return was no longer required,” said Kang Yingjiang, who works at China Comfort Travel Group in Beijing. .
On Tuesday, the State Immigration Service announced it would lift a ban on issuing and renewing passports for Chinese citizens that had been in place for more than a year.
Mixed feelings about visitors from China show how Beijing’s sudden reopening has created new and unwanted risks for much of the world that long ago chose to live with the virus. It’s also a reminder that Chinese tourists are the world’s largest source of tourism income, spending an average of about $250 billion annually in the five years before the pandemic, according to United Nations data.
Overseas Chinese have also started planning trips back to China for family reunions over the Lunar New Year. Ticket sales more than quadrupled on Tuesday morning compared to his previous day, according to Trip.com Group data.
Inbound visitors are expected to drive the initial boom in overseas travel, according to Xiang Ming, senior executive of Alibaba Group Holding. Ltd.
‘s travel unit Friggy. Airlines will first focus on reviving popular routes, he said.
Judging by our experience with airlines outside of China, that may take some time. According to aviation data tracking service Flight Master, he has only 617 international flights scheduled for the week of Jan. 8, up from about 16,000 flights in the first week of 2020, when the pandemic just started.
Aside from flights, China’s land routes and ports will soon be opened for passengers and crew to pass through, and an international cruise ship pilot program is planned, a unit in China’s cabinet said on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, domestic travel has receded in recent weeks as more people stayed at home to avoid infection. According to Flight Master, the number of domestic flights in the week of Dec. 25 decreased by 24% compared to the previous week, and he decreased by 33% year-on-year.
Omicron’s headlong spread worries many, especially vulnerable relatives. Although declining, a significant proportion of Chinese still live in multigenerational households with elderly grandparents, and these are the people most likely to suffer severe illness and death from COVID-19. Group.
Serena Cheng, a 30-year-old marketing manager in Hong Kong, said her parents had arranged to travel next month from Meizhou, in neighboring Guangdong province. The couple were in their late 50s and had just recovered from a Covid attack, she argued, and shouldn’t risk contracting it by coming to them.
“I haven’t been home for three years,” Ms. Chen said. “I miss everything there.”
Some worry that the sudden reopening could allow the virus to spread more quickly, ahead of the winter, when flu-type infections usually spike, and the Lunar New Year holidays, when Chinese people travel to reunite.
“We know China has to open up as soon as possible, but they seem to have picked the worst possible time,” said Cheng Ming, a high school teacher in Guangzhou. Her school has moved classes online because only a few students have been sick in the entire grade she teaches. After many of her family members were also infected, Ms. Chen isolated her 69-year-old mother, who does not have the virus but has high blood pressure, in her bedroom. “My biggest concern is that she could get infected. She’s the most vulnerable person in her family,” she said.
Overall, China’s medical resources are broadly adequate, but critical care beds are nearly full in areas facing peak demand, said Jiao Yahui, a senior official at the National Health Commission. said at a news conference on Tuesday. She said China is mobilizing where resources are most scarce.
China continues to report daily case numbers, but most experts say these are only part of the picture. There were fewer than 4,500 new cases and one death across the country on Monday, according to a daily report by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. There were 277 more severe cases, four times the daily average over the past week.
A visit to three large hospitals in Beijing on Monday revealed long waits, full ICU wards, and elderly patients lying in makeshift beds. While one of the hospitals set up a temporary fever clinic at the sports stadium, only patients with the most life-threatening symptoms were admitted.
Meanwhile, the estimated number of infected people between December 1 and December 20 is about 250 million, or nearly one-fifth of the total population, according to the minutes of a meeting between health officials last week. In Beijing and Sichuan provinces, the infection rate has already exceeded 50%.
Given that most of the country is still waiting for cases to peak during the Lunar New Year, Beijing warned that the country would face challenges if the infection reached ill-equipped rural areas.
According to the proceedings, so far no new mutant strains have been found that have major changes in infectivity, virulence, and immune escape.
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