China authorizes, from this Sunday, January 8, its nationals to travel abroad. A first in almost three years, while the country is awash in Covid-19 contamination. In Hong Kong, if things happened calmly, the new situation has however prompted many countries, including the United States, to introduce PCR tests for travelers from China. For many reasons, the concern remains.
In Hong Kong, the reopening of the borders – long awaited – took place in a completely orderly manner, explains our regional correspondent, Florence de Changy.
The Lok Ma Chau border post is one of the seven crossing points that are open from today, and it is through there that about 70% of travelers have to pass. Of course, we immediately recognize the people who go to China, because they often have big suitcases on wheels and they are dressed more warmly than the people of Hong Kong, especially single people in fact or families.
Since this morning, 60,000 people a day have the right to pass in both directions. This is much more than the 2,000 or 3,000 daily passages authorized until yesterday, but still far from the 500,000 daily passages which were the rule before Covid-19.
” Large aperture »
RFI was able to meet travelers preparing to return to China after years of separation from their families. For Ji Zhao, 32, it has so far been far too complicated and too risky to see her parents, but with what she calls ” the grand opening “, she no longer hesitated:” I have booked with a girlfriend, we both motivated each other, so we’re going to go home together. So there, it’s less difficult than before because with the grand opening, the quotas are really numerous so I was able to book easily to go through customs. »
And a return after three years means bringing back a few gifts: “ In the suitcase, [j’ai] considered having some medicine, vitamins, Omega 3. In general, they find that in Hong Kong, the quality is a little better, that’s why in pharmacies, the medicines are all already sold. We can’t find much anymore. Despite reassuring statements from the government, even supermarkets in Hong Kong have been robbed of all their stocks of paracetamol. This is also why some Hong Kongers fear the arrival of large numbers of Chinese in Hong Kong.
On the Chinese side, many people are waiting for the New Year holidays, in two weeks and, on the Hong Kong side, we are also especially expecting the measures to become more flexible, that there is no need to book online as now and that the fast train station reopens.
To the Ethe United States, the Chinese community deplores the mandatory PCR tests
This reopening of China to the world – new issuance of visas, end of mandatory quarantine on arrival – is not without worrying many countries, which fear an outbreak of the epidemic on their territory. This is the case, in particular, in Europe where screening policies are multiplying (see box). Thailand, too, is reviewing its reception of foreigners: it will now ask international travelers to prove that they are fully vaccinated against Covid before flying to the country.
On the American side, the decision to introduce PCR tests for travelers from China is deplored by Frankie Huang, a Chinese-American illustrator living in New York. In a column published in the New York Timesshe fears that this measure will contribute to stigmatizing the Asian community, already targeted since the start of the pandemic: “ People continue to live in fear and are still emotionally fragile. I have a feeling that many Asian Americans believe this decision may cause a new wave of violence. It is terrible because the government has taken measures to combat violence against people of Asian origin during the pandemic. Yet he also takes this kind of action that will cause more violence. It feels like our safety is not a priority for our Biden administration “.
The European Union last week encouraged its member states to mandate screening for air travelers from China. Germany has also recommended that its nationals avoid traveling to this country.
With our correspondent in Berlin, Pascal Thibault
” We currently advise against non-essential travel to China due to the spike in infections and the overburdened healthcare system “. The German Foreign Ministry recalled on the eve of the reopening of the Chinese borders that this country was facing an unprecedented wave of Covid-19 contamination for three years.
The health monitoring institute Robert Koch ranked China from Monday among the countries where there is a threat of new variants of Covid-19. A decision which also coincides with the entry into force of the measures decided in Europe. Passengers from China will have to produce a negative Covid-19 test from Monday January 9 before departing by plane for Germany. Random tests may be carried out when passengers arrive. As in other countries, aircraft wastewater will be examined for possible new variants of Covid-19. These rules are valid for three months.