China has announced it would be easing its zero-Covid-19 policy next year, beginning on Jan. 8, allowing its citizens to travel once again outside its borders and removing quarantine requirements for tourists visiting Chinese destinations.
China was the world’s largest outbound tourism market before Covid-19 shut down global travel, with its overseas visitors spending $127.5 billion on travel in pre-pandemic time.
Shares in global luxury goods, which rely heavily on Chinese shoppers, have risen on the easing of travel restrictions. China accounts for 21% of the world’s 350-billion-euro luxury goods market.
However,Chinese outbound and foreign tourists are not eager to travel right away.
Inbound travelers are also not taking risk of getting infected by the deadly virus raging in China.
A deadly wave of coronavirus disease (Covid-19), the biggest outbreak since 2019, has been spreading unchecked in the country of 1.4 billion, mostly among its elderly and unvaccinated population.
Reuters reported that international health experts had estimated that millions were getting infected daily and predicted at least one million Covid deaths in China next year.
Doctors and nurses in China say hospitals and fever clinics have been overwhelmed with five or six times more than the usual number of patients.
Hours after Beijing announced it had scrapped travel restrictions, many Chinese people started online searches to travel abroad, hoping to seek better healthcare, probably to get Western vaccines and medicine.
Based on online searches, the popular destinations for Chinese travelers are the United States, Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam. The Philippines is not among the popular destinations.
There are concerns that China could be “exporting” again more deadly coronavirus variants as what had happened three years ago when the outbreak spread from Wuhan.
In the Philippines, the first case of coronavirus infections was reported from tourists who came from Wuhan in early January 2020. The first Covid-19 death outside China was also reported in the country.
Many countries are taking precautions in accepting Chinese travelers. For instance, Japan will impose strict measures requiring a negative Covid-19 test result for people traveling from China.
Local authorities should also adopt similar measures to prevent the potential spread of deadly Covid-19 variants even after the Philippines had relaxed its travel restrictions to inbound travelers.
There are no more Covid-19 tests required for inbound travelers although tourists and returning local residents are required to register at the health department’s OneHealth pass. In most other countries, there are no such measures.
Filipinos should also be discouraged temporarily from visiting China because of the current Covid-19 crisis unless the trips are essential, like those that are work-related.
China had agreed to accept as many as 300,000 Filipinos in its labor market under an agreement signed during the previous administration. There are thousands of overseas Filipino workers in Chinese cities, working in hospitality, education, and other professional services.
In the Philippines, nearly 300 Covid-19 cases were added on Dec. 27, bringing to more than 4 million the total number cases since 2020. There are still more than 14,600 active cases and about 65,200 deaths.
The situation shows that the Philippines is not out of the woods and another wave of outbreak is possible.
Thus, health authorities have to take precautions. It should also protect the country’s leaders from getting infected.
The Department of Health said it cannot decide on the president’s trip to China although it has been informing Bongbong Marcos on the Covid-19 situation in other countries, including countries where he is set to travel.
The Philippines should consider resetting President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s planned three-day state visit to Beijing next week due to the outbreak in China.
Perhaps, Marcos should consider cutting short his trip to avoid possible risk of infection.
China will surely understand the country’s concern for the president’s safety and security at a time when China was experiencing its worst Covid-19 outbreak. The president’s health is very important and he has been infected with Covid-19 in the past before he was elected leader.
There could be much better times in the months ahead when China has fully controlled the virus.