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Politicizing COVID is not the way out of pandemic

By Zhao Qian

the Chinese Southern Airlines reopened the straight flight between Nairobi, capital of Kenya, and Guangzhou, a southern Chinese city which is most closely connected with Africa.

After China officially eased restrictions on overseas travel on Jan. 8, many countries have expressed their welcome. However, meanwhile, a few countries have also announced entry restriction measures targeting travelers from China.

In the past three years, China has always put the people and their lives above all else while fighting against COVID. China has the lowest rates of severe cases and mortality in the world. China also has all along shared information on its monitoring of the mutation of the virus and infected groups with the international community in a timely, open and transparent manner. 60 technical exchanges with the WHO happened over the past three years, including four in December 2022 alone. And China has been sharing the genome data of the virus from the latest COVID cases in China via the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data (GISAID), providing important references for international health research institutions.

With Omicron much less pathogenic and deadly and China’s treatment, antigen testing and vaccination capacity steadily on the rise, China refined its COVID response measures on its own initiative in response to the evolving situation. China’s COVID situation is overall improving. Some provinces and cities have gone through the infection peak, where life and work are coming back to normal at a faster pace.

The refining of COVID response measures is aimed at normalizing people-to-people exchange. As the second largest economy in the world, the importance of China in the recovery of the whole world cannot be doubted. According to the World Tourism Organization, China was the world’s largest tourism spender before the pandemic, with $277 billion in 2018 and $255 billion in 2019 spend by over 150 million Chinese tourists in foreign countries. This is why countries like Thailand, which relies heavily on tourism industry, sent three ministers to the airport to give “heroic welcome” to the first batch of Chinese tourists after China optimized pandemic response. “The number of tourists from China and other parts of the world traveling to Thailand tends to increase continuously,” Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Health of Thailand Anutin told reporters at the airport. “This is a good sign for the Thai tourism sector, which generates income, adds value to the economy, creates jobs and opportunities for people.”

What’s more? The business link will be back to accelerate trades and students will come back to Chinese universities to continue their studies in order to return and build their countries with the knowledge they acquired in China.

While China is opening more to other countries, some led by the U.S. is taking discriminatory entry restriction measures targeting China. The most ironic thing is that it is the U.S. that has smeared China for not easing COVID control measures months ago. Even the New York Times has published an opinion piece pointing out that the America’s COVID test requirement for Chinese travelers is a “farce”.

The opinion cited Dr. Lucky Tran of Columbia University’s Irving Medical Center as saying that “If the U.S. is really worried about variants and the spread of COVID through travel, it should require negative tests for all travelers, no matter where they come from, and reinstate the mask mandate for public transportation.”

Hence, the policy only targets China is discriminatory, non-scientific and as everyone knows, is because of political repression. 

All parties shall make sure that their COVID response measures are fact-based, science-based and proportionate and avoid politicizing COVID. Only by that, we can make contribution to global solidarity against COVID and to world economic recovery.

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