There is great joy in the neighboring countries about the Chinese who are allowed to travel again. But also the fear of them. Because on the one hand they were missing, as business friends and tourists from Thailand to Singapore to Indonesia. On the other hand, nobody knows which Covid-19 variant they are bringing with them in their luggage.
Chinese authorities reported on Saturday that a total of 59,938 deaths related to Covid-19 occurred across the country between December 8, after the country reversed its pandemic policy, and last Thursday. According to the authority, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization (WHO), confirmed in discussions with Dr. Ma Xiaowei, director of China’s National Health Commission, emphasized the importance of increased cooperation and transparency, according to a statement over the weekend. But the lack of data makes it difficult for the WHO to give advice to the countries concerned.
“The authority stated that it did not yet have enough information to fully assess the dangers of the increase and possible variants,” the reported The Straits Times from Singapore. There are concerns in the city-state, which has particularly close ties to Beijing. The big rush is still to come: on January 22, next Sunday, the Chinese New Year will be celebrated.
Before the pandemic, the date marked the peak travel season in China and neighboring countries and was considered the largest migration movement in the world. Kites are already being set up in Bangkok’s Chinatown, because kites always work, even though 2023 is the Year of the Rabbit. Traditionally, Yaowarat Road will be packed with dancers and light shows on the day, with people jostling from temples to food stalls to bars. A superspreader event.
Testing compulsory, no testing compulsory – Thailand’s flip-flop policy
In Thailand, the Ministry of Health issued new entry conditions with mandatory tests a week ago in order to welcome the Chinese and reassure the local population at the same time. Three days later, the new rule was canceled because airlines in other parts of the world would no longer take passengers who were not vaccinated at least twice. Thai Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul issued a statement: “International travelers arriving in Thailand are not required to present proof of vaccination.” PCR or self-tests are also not necessary. They now call this type of government in Thailand flip-flop politics.
The people in Bangkok continue to wear masks, the economic shock of the past pandemic years is too deep. Especially since the Chinese are not the first to travel to cold European regions. They fly to Vietnam, Thailand or the Philippines, where you can network and relax on the beach.
What is currently also being observed in Singapore: a significant increase in visitors from China who are being vaccinated against Covid-19 with mRNA vaccines because their own vaccines are not trusted. Raffles Medical, which operates 34 clinics in Singapore, said it has seen a steady influx of visitors from China since the launch of Moderna’s latest vaccine, an increase of up to 10 percent towards the end of last year.
There are calculations that 9,000 people die in China every day
How many people are actually suffering from Covid-19 in China is not only of concern to the WHO. Citing British health data company Airfinity, news agency Reuter reporteds, that the Covid infections in China reached their first peak last weekend with 3.7 million cases per day and currently 9000 people are likely dying from Covid-19 every day. This is in stark contrast to the cases that are being reported.
Another irritation: Beijing still requires visitors to be tested before entering the country, but conversely describes such restrictions as “discriminatory” and “unscientific”. Tensions with South Korea and Japan escalated in early January as both countries restricted air travel, tested travelers from China on arrival and quarantined positive ones. China responded by suspending short-stay visas for South Koreans and Japanese. Thailand and Singapore now want to avoid that at all costs. And prefer to be happy about the new, old visitors than to be afraid of them.