Have you noticed there aren’t many Chinese nationals at our tourist hotspots?
If you remember, there used to be a lot of them. But where are they now?
Since China’s isolation from the world, many touristy areas have gone silent, but it’s all about to change now.
China Opening Its Borders from 8 Jan
Early next year, not only will our touristy spots be filled, but we will also be allowed to travel to China.
In a U-turn of policy, it has quickly transitioned from a strict and unrelenting system to an unusually relaxed one.
On Monday (26 December), the National Health Commission announced that inbound passengers would only be required to present a negative COVID test result obtained within 48 hours of boarding. If all is well and no symptoms surface, visitors will not face any special restrictions while in the country.
“According to the national health quarantine law, infectious disease quarantine measures will no longer be taken against inbound travellers and good,” the National Health Commission said.
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Along with this, mass PCR testing upon arrival and centralized quarantine will be done away with.
Not only will its airports ease up, but its water and land ports will, too, with restrictions on outbound travel relaxing. Following this, citizens will be permitted to travel abroad “in an orderly manner.”
This move is a shift downgrade from Class A management of the disease to Class B. For context, COVID-19 has been managed as a top category A infectious disease since 2020. Others in the category include the bubonic plague and cholera.
However, in actuality, it is a Class B infectious disease, alongside other diseases like HIV, viral hepatitis, and H7N9 bird flu.
In the past three years, it would be an understatement to say China was tough on its people.
From forced quarantine to citywide lockdowns, officials not only subjected its people to emotional torture but also physical.
Even in the televised World Cup games, China censors footage of international fans cheering without wearing masks.
But why is it so stringent on its people?
Because of various factors that make China vulnerable to the disease, China has to control the citizens with an iron fist to prevent the virus from spreading.
One of these factors includes its weak homegrown vaccine.
China’s vaccine isn’t the strongest. But they refuse to import the mRNA vaccines by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna because of the prominent political challenges in conceding its inferiority.
Also, the people in the nation are sceptical of the vaccine, leading to decreased numbers willing to take it. As such, China’s vaccination rate remains lower than in many similar countries.
Only 40% of people over 80 have received a booster shot, and millions remain unvaccinated. Coupled with its vast population, the vaccination problem continues to intensify.
Next, it needs more facilities to treat its patients. Apart from Panadol and Nurofen supplies, it also lacks critical care beds and hospital capacities.
Research shows China has less than five critical care beds per 100,000 people. To put things into perspective, Taiwan has almost 30, and South Korea has more than 10. The country currently has fewer ICU beds than other developed countries, putting it at significant risk if cases shoot up (which they have).
With the rural parts of China receiving unequal access to healthcare, a COVID breakout would be disastrous for the nation.
Hence, the “Zero COVID” policy was born.
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Lack of Drugs
Recently, China has eased up on its quarantine and isolation regulations, leading to the widespread transmission of COVID throughout its 1.4 billion-strong population.
The infection numbers have gotten so high, so much so that the drug supplies aren’t enough for the people. Since then, China has stopped selling Panadol and Nurofen painkiller products to its citizens.
Those with family members in China have resorted to mass-purchasing the drugs in Singapore’s stores and then shipping them to their relatives.
In fact, this chain reaction has spiralled to the extent that even our shops had to cap the number of drug products one could buy.
An example would be Singapore’s favourite supermarket chain, FairPrice.
In light of the rise in sales for fever, cold, and flu medicines, FairPrice has imposed a purchase limit on all Panadol and Nurofen products.
Now, each customer can only purchase a total of four units of Panadol and Nurofen in any combination.
This move was “in alignment” with the Health Ministry’s latest advisory to “buy in moderation”, said the spokesperson.
“Beyond this, we also offer alternative fever, flu, and cold medication from comparable brands to ensure that the community has access to medicines and health-related products they need,” said FairPrice.
Courier services have seen snaking queues of China nationals waiting hours to send their supplies back home.
In an interview with a Lianhe Zaobao reporter at Chinatown, 32-year-old Zhang Rong Rong (name transliterated from Chinese) said: “Panadol can’t be bought in China. It doesn’t matter if it takes a month to send; it can still be used after the Chinese New Year.”
It was found that Zhang sent 18 boxes of Panadol and two bottles of cough medicine to her parents in Beijing.
China Ending Quarantine for Hong Kong Border
While the rest of the world gets to go in on 8 January, Hong Kong has it early.
China may remove quarantine requirements for cross-border travellers between Hong Kong and China as early as 3 January.
According to the South China Morning Post, the “0+3” policy is being considered, under which travellers to China would only have to “observe three days of medical surveillance” and not five days of quarantine.
“Many are working hard towards a tentative date of 3 January.”
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