Chinese citizens have hurried to book international flights as authorities remove the final major pillar of the nation’s zero-Covid policy, amid reports of overcrowded hospitals all around the country.
The immigration authority declared on Tuesday that it would resume issuing visas for mainland residents to travel abroad beginning on January 8. Health authorities announced late on Monday that they would no longer require inbound travellers to go into quarantine.
Following protests that erupted in November, the largest display of political unrest on the Chinese mainland since President Xi Jinping took office in 2012, China has been swiftly rolling back the severe Covid restrictions in place since early 2020.
Medical professionals told Reuters that the hospitals where they were employed had been overrun with up to six times the typical number of patients, the majority of whom were elderly.
Local media claimed that the Peking and Tsinghua universities in Beijing had issued an increasing number of obituary notices of largely older employees and faculty members over the past month, an indication that the death toll from Covid is also rising.
Some of China’s nearby neighbours are concerned about the world’s second-largest economy’s desire to open its borders as well as the lack of data clarity.
Fumio Kishida, the prime minister of Japan, announced on Tuesday that starting on Friday, as a temporary emergency measure, his nation would demand Covid tests from all visitors from China. Those who test positive must spend seven days in quarantine at special locations, and their samples will be utilised for genomic analysis. The Japanese government also intends to restrict flights to China.
According to officials, Paxlovid tablets from Pfizer would be made available in Beijing’s capital city in an effort to lessen the severity of illnesses. However, when The Global Times contacted health centres on Monday, they reported that the medication had not yet arrived.
President Xi made his first comments on the revisions on Monday, urging officials to take “feasible” action to save lives.
Mr. Xi is in a bind as a result of China’s U-turn. Zero-Covid, which many claimed severely restricted people’s lifestyles and destroyed the economy, was his brainchild.
However, analysts claim that since he gave it up, he now must take responsibility for the enormous wave of illnesses and hospital admissions.
Why the nation was not better prepared has been a subject of much debate.