Since early December, China has started loosening its domestic COVID-19 containment policies. What follows is its gradual reopening to the outside world.
On December 28, the National Health Commission of China declared that overseas travel of Chinese people would soon return to normal. Starting on January 8, 2023, China will restart the renewal and approval service of the passports of Chinese citizens traveling abroad or to Hong Kong for tourism or visiting friends in an orderly manner.
This service has been largely suspended for almost three years, permitted only to Chinese traveling abroad for study or working purposes. Soon, there will be large waves of Chinese tourists in major tourist destinations around the globe, as there once were before COVID-19.
Regarding the imminent change, various countries’ embassies in China have conveyed positive messages on Chinese social media. The countries are mainly Western developed countries, including France, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark, Norway, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, which invariably encourage Chinese tourists to pay a visit.
Meanwhile, the heads of tourism departments in Malaysia and Cambodia said that their countries welcome Chinese tourists and are urging the relevant companies and governmental agencies to prepare for the upcoming waves of Chinese tourists. The spokesperson of the Thai government delivered a similar message, saying that different ministries of the Thai government are preparing for welcoming Chinese tourists.
Nonetheless, some countries are concerned about China's current outbreak of covid-19. WHO and the US State Department have expressed their worries about the virus’ possible new variant in China and its spreading to other countries, as the earlier variants did in the past few years.
Again, the countries imposing restrictions are mainly Western developed countries, including France, Italy, Spain, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and Israel as well as Japan, South Korea, Qatar, Morocco, India, and Malaysia. They mostly require compulsory negative test results and quarantine after the Chinese tourists arrive in their countries. Morocco even banned all Chinese tourists’ arrival.
Still, some other countries diverged from the mainstream. For example, on December 28, the German Federal Ministry of Health spokesperson stressed that it is unnecessary to change the current policies regarding covid-19. Portugal also claimed that there is no need to impose travel restrictions on Chinese tourists, while Austria emphasized more on the economic benefits brought to Europe by Chinese tourists.
On December 29, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) also suggested that there is no need to restrict Chinese tourists’ arrival in Europe. “The variants circulating in China are already circulating in the EU, and as such are not challenging for the immune response of EU/EEA citizens,” as posted on ECDC’s official website.
Regarding the restrictive measures on Chinese tourists, Mao Ning, the spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said that China always believes that the epidemic prevention measures of various countries should be scientific and appropriate, and should not take the opportunity to engage in political manipulation, should not have discriminatory practices, and should not affect normal personnel exchanges, exchanges, and cooperation.
How the countries, their different departments and agencies, will respond to Chinese travelers in the future is yet unknown. It largely depends on the situation of covid in China.
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