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China COVID travel restrictions: The good, the bad and the ugly

Australia joined a raft of other nations in requiring travellers from China to show a negative COVID-19 test.

😃 The Good: Protects Australia from another COVID-19 wave
😔 The Bad: Travel industry suffers
😡 The Ugly: We may not know the whole truth

Anyone travelling from China will need to show a negative COVID-19 test at least 48 hours before entering Australia, after fresh restrictions came into effect today.

However, not everyone agreed with the decision. The chief medical officer said the move wasn’t necessary.

Here’s the good, the bad and the ugly.

Ensuring travellers aren’t infected with COVID-19 before entering could avoid Australia being hit by a new variant wave.

Federal Minister for Health Mark Butler said the Government’s primary concern was ensuring the safety of Australians.

Butler said there had been concerns around what variants may be spreading in China because we simply didn’t have the information.

“The thing people are particularly concerned about is that we're not seeing the genomic sequencing of COVID cases in China uploaded in real time for the rest of the world to see and share,” Butler said on FIVEAA radio.

“And that genomic sequencing tells us exactly what type of COVID is circulating in a particular country. Every other country is doing that now. We do it in real-time so that, as a global community, we have a line of sight about what variants are emerging and where.

“And WHO [World Health Organization] and other countries besides have expressed concern that we don't have that information about a very fast evolving COVID wave in the largest country on the planet.”

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 05: Two women wearing face masks and protective suits walk their luggage to a taxi rank at Sydney Airport after arriving on Jetstar flight 510 from Melbourne on August 05, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian has announced Victorians travelling into the state will need to spend 14 days in hotel quarantine. New South Wales has recorded 12 new cases of COVID-19 overnight, while Victoria has recorded 725 new coronavirus cases and 15 more deaths. The new measures will come into effect from 12.01 on Friday 7 August. (Photo by James D. Morgan/Getty Images)
International travel restrictions were eased in Australia in 2021. (Source: Getty)


The travel industry has slammed the decision, saying it’s not backed by science.

International Air Transport Association (IATA) director general Willie Walsh slammed the move as a “knee-jerk” reaction for the impact it could have on international travel.

“Several countries are introducing COVID-19 testing and other measures for travellers from China, even though the virus is already circulating widely within their borders,” Walsh said.

“It is extremely disappointing to see this knee-jerk reinstatement of measures that have proven ineffective over the last three years.”

Walsh said research undertaken around the arrival of the Omicron variant found that putting barriers in the way of travel made no difference to the peak spread of infections.

“We have the tools to manage COVID-19 without resorting to ineffective measures that cut off international connectivity, damage economies and destroy jobs. Governments must base their decisions on ‘science facts’ rather than ‘science politics’,” he said.


The ruling Chinese Communist Party has not been forthcoming with what is actually happening inside the country.

The international community is concerned about the lack of information coming from the CCP about the spread of COVID-19 within Chinese borders.

In the past few days, the US, Canada, England, France, Italy, Spain, India, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and more have all introduced the same testing measures for travellers coming from China - all citing the same concerns around a lack of transparency about the COVID wave sweeping China.

And it’s not just governments that are concerned. Chinese Australian Forum president Simon Chan said while medical experts said it wasn't necessary, there was a lack of information coming out of Beijing regarding COVID and the numbers of citizens affected.

Chan said travellers would also have more confidence in flying knowing they were less likely to catch COVID while in transit.

"You don't want to have a new variant coming in and then find out afterwards. It'll be too late," he told the ABC.

"I spoke to a lot of Chinese-Australian friends that I have, and generally they do think it's not unreasonable to make that decision.

"It's not as if they have to go into quarantine. It's probably better to take that precaution than to feel they should have done that later."

Patients lie on beds and stretchers in a hallway in the emergency department of a hospital, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Shanghai, China January 4, 2023. REUTERS/Staff
Many countries have voiced concerns around a lack of transparency from the CCP about the extent of the COVID-19 wave sweeping China. (Source: Reuters)


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