Speculation has mounted in recent days that China plans to keep current COVID-19 border restrictions for at least another year.
Wall Street Journal quoted a leak from “people familiar with the matter” in an article published on June 22. It claimed that China would not relax current border restrictions due to a calendar of sensitive events, which includes the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in February and March of next year.
The article went on to state that China worries about the potential disruption to said events if a new COVID-19 variant were to enter the country.
Since March 2020, China’s borders have remained shut to most foreign nationals. Anyone who enters the country must undergo a mandatory quarantine of up to 21 days as well as a series of nucleic acid tests.
Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, Zhao Lijian, responded to the claims at a regular press conference on June 23. He did not give any specific details about when China would begin to relax border restrictions.
Instead, he reiterated that “China adjusts its management measures on inbound travelers in light of the changing epidemic situation in a science-based manner.” He also emphasized the threat of new COVID-19 variants entering the country.
So far, China has administered more than one billion vaccines, according to the country’s National Health Commission (NHC). Of the vaccine shots administered, it is unclear how many are first and second doses.
Despite the rollout of the vaccination program, a large influx of travelers into China would still pose the risk of a severe COVID-19 outbreak, according to the deputy director-general of the country’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Feng Zijian said that in China’s largely COVID-free environment, it is impossible to know how effective China’s vaccines are in preventing infection and onward transmission, in addition to preventing serious illness.
Like so much COVID-related news, uncertainty remains as to when exactly China will start to ease border restrictions. It more than likely won’t be anytime soon.
[Cover image via Pixabay]