As China Drops Travel Rules, Wariness Rises Over its Covid Outbreak – The New York Times

As China Drops Travel Rules, Wariness Rises Over its Covid Outbreak – The New York Times

For the past three years, China largely shut its borders and kept its people home, retreating from the global engagement that was the foundation for its rise.

As the country now prepares to gradually reopen its doors to help rescue a faltering economy, the world is both excited about the potential boon for business and tourism, but wary about exposure to a country facing an explosion of Covid cases.

Starting Jan. 8, China will drop its strict quarantine requirements for travelers arriving from abroad and lift rules that had limited the number of incoming flights and passengers. It will start processing Chinese passport applications and mainland permits to go to Hong Kong and make it easier for foreigners to get visas for business, study and family reunions.

Immediately, bookings for flights surged as Chinese headed for the exits and planned long-delayed family reunions. Business groups and economists hailed the easing as an important step toward restoring confidence in China’s prospects. On a popular social media site, the French Embassy in China wrote: “Chinese friends, France welcomes you with open arms!”

But the optimism has been tempered by concerns about China’s handling of the explosive wave of infections since it abruptly abandoned its “zero Covid” strategy. Hospitals and funeral parlors have been overwhelmed, and some medicines are scarce. The central government has also failed to provide reliable data, or estimates, on Covid infections and deaths, raising concerns about the scale of the outbreak and Beijing’s credibility.

Many would-be travelers to China expressed worries about getting Covid in a country where medical services are already overstretched. Others wondered how welcoming China would be to foreigners after fanning nationalism and even xenophobia during the pandemic.

Despite the lucrative prospect of Chinese tourists, some countries and cities are nervous about the potential flood of arrivals. In Milan, the Malpensa airport issued a recommendation that passengers arriving from China take antigen tests upon arrival. Japan said it would limit the number and destination of flights from China and require those who recently traveled to the country to be tested on arrival, and sent to a weeklong quarantine if positive.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the restrictions were necessary because of the lack of transparency about Covid’s spread in China.

“There are major inconsistencies in the information about infections coming from the central and local authorities and from the government and the civilian sector,” he said. “That has made it difficult to get a clear grasp on the situation and has heightened concern here in Japan.”

The U.S. government is considering taking similar measures on travelers from China because of …….