By Michael Jarvis UK Correspondent
Global attention on China’s reopening after ending its extensive and prolonged Covid-19 restrictions continues to intensify on three competing fronts.
These are a reported explosion in the number of Covid cases there, how the reopening is expected to impact the global economy this year and beyond, and what effect these combined circumstances are likely to have on the global economy and the Covid-19 crisis.
In the west, two contrasting points of view are emerging about the impact it will have on the global economy. On the one hand is the expectation that it will boost international trade while at the other end of the spectrum are fears that it would disrupt the global economy.
However, despite those differences, there appears to be an alignment of views regarding the current global Covid-19 situation and how it is likely to be impacted by China’s reopening.
The country regarded as the source of the pandemic is once again in the spotlight as a new wave of infections sweeps through its population. This is happening just weeks after it lifted some of the most draconian and longest-lasting national Covid restrictions in the world following a series of unprecedented nationwide protests.
China’s borders reopened on January 8th after it dismantled its rigid zero-Covid policy and three years of travel restrictions.
According to some international news reports, 90 per cent of people in China’s most populous province - 88.5 million out of a total population of 99.4 million - are believed to be infected with Covid
Mass demonstrations to end the restrictions have now coincided with a new wave of mass infections as the economy opens up to inbound and outward-bound international travel as well as travel within the country.
But while the lifting of quarantine rules effectively opens the door for many Chinese to go abroad for the first time in nearly three years, the country’s borders remain closed to international tourists, with foreigners only allowed to travel there for business or family reasons.
And while Chinese nationals are now allowed to travel overseas, a growing number of nations are adopting a cautious approach despite the prospect of pent-up demand from Chinese tourists yearning for vacation travel.
However, several countries have re-instated travel restrictions on arrivals from China, demanding negative tests as a precaution to contain the new Covid outbreak that’s said to be overwhelming many of the country’s hospitals and crematoriums.
The US has imposed mandatory Covid testing on visitors from China, while the EU, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden in the EU have all tightened rules on travellers from China in response to the rising cases.
Meanwhile, the UK has opted for voluntary testing for travellers arriving from China. The UK’s Health Security Agency (UKHSA) says this ‘on arrival’ coronavirus (COVID-19) testing will help strengthen the UK’s ability to rapidly detect potential new variants circulating in China.
“The programme will offer swabs to perform PCR tests on up to 20% of arrivals from selected flights. Anyone offered a test is encouraged to take it up, though this testing is not mandated for arrival,” it says.
The WHO has accused China of under-representing the true impact of Covid in the country but China is threatening retaliatory action on countries which target its nationals.
All of this is happening against a background of increasing concern in the West over the spread of a new strain of Covid-19.
The World Health Organisation(WHO) has described the new XBB.1.5 variant as is the “most transmissible” yet detected.
The variant, called the Kraken after a mythological monster, is a sub-variant of Omicron and is confirmed to be spreading in 25 countries, including the UK, US, EU and China.
Chinese officials have said the dominant version of the coronavirus there is still the Omicron subvariant BA5.
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