BEIJING (AP) — Australia and Canada have joined a growing list of countries requiring travelers from China to undergo a COVID-19 test before boarding their flight, as China grapples with a nationwide outbreak of the coronavirus after sharply easing restrictions restrictions that were in place for much of the pandemic.
Australian health authorities said on Sunday that from January 5 all air travelers from mainland China, Hong Kong or Macau will have to show a negative COVID-19 test within two days of departure.
Canadian authorities announced similar measures that will also take effect from January 5 in a statement dated Saturday.
Australia and Canada join other countries including the US, UK, India, Japan and several European nations in imposing stricter COVID-19 measures on Chinese travelers amid concerns about a lack of data on infections in China and fears about the possibility of the spread of new variants.
China, which for most of the pandemic adopted a “zero COVID” strategy that imposed tough restrictions aimed at eradicating the virus, abruptly relaxed those measures in December. Chinese authorities previously said that from January 8, overseas travelers will no longer need to be quarantined upon arrival in China, opening the way for Chinese residents to travel.
Hong Kong is also preparing for quarantine-free travel to China, with plans to resume operation of more border checkpoints from January 8, according to a Facebook post by Hong Kong Chief Secretary Eric Chan.
However, a quota limiting the number of travelers between the two places will remain in place.
“Depending on the first phase of the situation, we will gradually expand the scale for a full border opening,” Chan said.
In China, the easing of restrictions meant residents could celebrate the New Year in large-scale gatherings banned for much of the pandemic, even as the country experiences a massive outbreak.
“There are still some concerns, more or less,” said Wu Yanxia, a 51-year-old Beijing resident who works at a logistics company. “I hope next year everything will be normal, like domestic travel.”
Others are hoping that 2023 will bring better things after a difficult year.
“We experienced a very uneven year, particularly memorable, with many things beyond our imagination,” said Li Feng, a teacher in Beijing, adding that 2022 was a difficult year for both the people and the government.
“But I think we made it and everything will be fine,” Lee said. “All of us will be better and better both at work and in life.”