Airlines up in arms over increase in Covid measures due to influx of Chinese travellers

Worldwide airline lobby group International Air Transport Association (IATA) is up in arms over global plans to re-introduce Covid-19 restrictions for passengers arriving from China. The IATA says such measures represent a “knee-jerk” reaction to China’s recent lifting of Covid restrictions. Such a reintroduction of measures for travellers is being criticised by the IATA as it says science should supersede politics. It furthered the notion that the previous steps taken to prevent the virus from spreading have been ineffective.

The group’s director-general, Willie Walsh, says travel restrictions have been shown to only delay the peak of new Covid waves by only a few days, rather than stopping them. He also says that such measures will damage economies even more by destroying jobs and strangling international connectivity.

“Governments must base their decisions on science facts rather than science politics.”

According to the Bangkok Post, the European Union is planning to handle the Covid outbreak in China by reintroducing pre-flight testing and mask-wearing on flights. The draft opinion was drawn up on Tuesday, which shows a strong majority of countries backing pre-departure tests.

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In response to many nations planning to step up Covid measures for travellers, China’s government has called it “unacceptable,” and says it may consider “countermeasures” against countries that apply them.

The IATA represents carriers that account for 83% of global air traffic. It says that it had not anticipated Beijing to relax its rigid closed-door policy until the second half of 2023. Now, many countries including Japan, are planning to tighten quarantine measures for travellers arriving from China.

Malaysia is also responding to China’s recently lifted Covid restrictions with plans to tighten its borders. The Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim, announced the country’s plans come as fears mount over another Covid wave due to China.

Thai government officials are also discussing measures to prevent Covid outbreaks from the upcoming influx of Chinese tourists, given the prevalence of the virus in the People’s Republic of China at present.

“We expect some 300,000 Chinese tourists to come in the first quarter of this year,” said Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand Yuthasak Supasorn.

But, the nation’s Health Minister, Anutin Charnvirakul, says that Thailand will not implement a lockdown or “strict regulations” in response to the easing of travel restrictions in China.

The ministry said that there is no need to test Chinese arrivals for the virus. China requires anyone travelling out of the country to obtain a negative RT-PCR test result prior within 48 hours of their departure.

The virus spread rapidly in China after Beijing dropped three-year-long stringent Covid measures last month. Then, Beijing dropped mandatory quarantine on arrival and announced the reopening of the borders on Sunday, January 8, spurring budding Chinese travellers to book trips abroad.

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Ann Carter

Ann Carter is an award-winning journalist from the United States with over 12 years experience in print and broadcast news. Her work has been featured in America, China and Thailand as she has worked internationally at major news stations as a writer and producer. Carter graduated from the Walter Williams Missouri School of Journalism in the USA.

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