Canada News Agency

'Political virus' are attacking reopening China

The subject of Covid tests for travellers from China is arousing lots of commentary in recent media reports. Australia said they wouldn’t require travellers to be tested then, in an “abundance of caution”, said they would.
Japan needed a 48-hour test prior to flying, then decided they would require tests on arrival and one-week quarantine for positive results. Morocco just banned Chinese travellers.
Providing a 48-hour negative test result for international travel is not a bad idea but has detractors, there are some negatives points. Some ask: what’s the point? And it’s a fair question when there are no Covid restrictions within a country, is it fair that there should be restrictions on entering that country?
One criticism is that a test 48 hours before travel isn’t much use. Living in a city without an airport means taking a test, then getting onto public transportation, travelling to the nearest airport. There are many opportunities for a virus to strike. Testing on arrival could be a better option.
There are however, valid reasons for testing travellers, one is variants which could become less pathogenic or could become more so, they may evade vaccinations or fail to respond to therapeutics, nobody knows until they’ve been tested, sequenced and observed over time.
There is a very real prospect of variants arising. One that has, is the XBB.1.5 Variant which has infected over 40% of US cases and is sweeping the UK. Some reports suggest that this is faster spreading, and more evasive than other variants and even has a supercharged mutation the F486P. This kind of situation has many health experts worried.
What causes Chinese authorities to worry is not so much the prospect of variants or mutations, although they are rightly concerned about them, it’s a completely different virus, the virus of politicism, even racism.
Some countries suggest China lacks transparency. This has been denied by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in their 5th January press briefing where they confirm meetings with WHO and sharing of information on December 9th; December 30th; January 3rd: and January 5th. Furthermore, China shared genome data (with GISAID) of the of the two strains currently active in the country as well as information on the XBB.1.5 variant which was found in Shanghai under quarantine conditions and brought into China by a foreign traveller. Clearly, lack of transparency isn’t the real cause.
Countries introducing restrictions on Chinese travellers but not from other countries are doing this for other reasons. These enhanced requirements, from only China, need to be seen for what they are: a two-pronged attack; the first part is a “tit for tat”. China has and will continue to require 48-hour negative test from every person entering the country. This is not racist or political; this is a sensible precaution to ensure the health and safety of the Chinese people. It applies to everyone entering China, wherever they come from, whatever their ethnicity.
Secondly, to suggest that only China needs to provide negative tests, tests on arrival or even to completely ban arrivals from China is a political approach to a global problem. It is not helpful. It serves to dehumanise Chinese people in the eyes of those countries’ populations and that is harmful to global harmony and harmful to any country practicing it.
It needs to be reiterated that transparency isn’t the issue. Since identifying a new virus in December 2019, China supplied information to USA’s CDC and WHO on December 31st 2019 and shared the genome sequence on January 12th 2020 and has provided open and transparent information ever since. It has shown equality in dealing with all nations throughout this pandemic and global leadership to Low Income and Developing Nations with vaccine donations, sales and manufacturing partnerships.
January 8th is an important date. It is the date on which China reopens to the rest of the world. It is also the date on which some countries have chosen to exclude China and others to only allow conditional access on their terms. There are some reports of China “lashing out” at these restrictions. As usual, these reports are exaggerated. What the MFA spokesperson actually said was very different to “lashing out”, she said: “We stand ready to step up communication with the rest of the international community and work together to prevail over COVID. Meanwhile, we do not believe the entry restriction measures some countries have taken against China are science-based. Some of these measures are disproportionate and simply unacceptable. We firmly reject using COVID measures for political purposes and will take corresponding measures in response to varying situations based on the principle of reciprocity”.
It is likely, and reasonable, China will take measures when countries discriminate against Chinese citizens but, as usually happens, they will be accused of aggression for responding with reciprocity.