Even right after the entire globe was trying to put the COVID-19 pandemic behind, China on the other hand had zero tolerance for the pandemic leading to constant lockdowns that continued over the past couple of years.
However, the Chinese government is reportedly ready to ease its zero-COVID policy by re-opening the country.
Air, sea, and land borders on Sunday were opened with many now being able to reunite with their loved ones.
After literally three years, mainland China’s borders are finally opened while Hong Kong ended its compulsory incoming travelers’ quarantine.
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China held the world’s strictest COVID policy which started at the beginning of the pandemic itself with a lot of compulsory frequent testing, restrictions on movements, and forced mass lockdowns.
This definitely had a negative impact on the country’s economy leading to an economic downturn at some point last year.
With the country now being full-opened, residents and travelers are now happy to rejoin their families and loved ones again.
“I’m so happy, so happy, so excited. I haven’t seen my parents for many years,” said Hong Kong resident Teresa Chow as she and dozens of other travelers prepared to cross into mainland China from Hong Kong’s Lok Ma Chau checkpoint.
“My parents are not in good health and I couldn’t go back to see them even when they had colon cancer, so I’m really happy to go back and see them now,” she said.
China’s closing down definitely had a negative impact on the entire global economy considering the country’s influence in the manufacturing industry at large.
Investors are said to believe the new development will reinvigorate a US$17-trillion economy that had its slowest growth in half a century.
However, another warning from healthcare experts has it that the sudden policy reversal could in fact lead to a wave of infections that could potentially overwhelm the country’s healthcare system.
The border re-opening follows Saturday’s commencement of the 40-day period of Lunar New Year travel which was the world’s largest annual human migration as millions move to their hometowns to celebrate the holiday period.
In fact, about 2 billion trips are expected to be made this season alone which would double last year’s movement making it a 70% recovery of 2019’s level according to the Chinese government.
Even though many people would be coming to China, others would in fact be traveling to other parts of the globe.
Travel will not quickly return to pre-pandemic levels due to such factors as a dearth of international flights, analysts say.
However, the country resumed back to issuing passports and travel visas for mainland residents, while ordinary visas and residence permits for foreigners were also issued.
The government is still trying to control the flow of people by putting a quota on the number of those that can travel between the mainland and Hong Kong daily.
Emotions as people meet their loved ones over the years
Emotional views can be seen at the country’s International Airport where friends and families can be seen exchanging emotional hugs while receiving arrivals from places like Hong Kong, Warsaw, and Frankfurt.
“I’ve been looking forward to the reopening for a long time. Finally, we are reconnected with the world. I’m thrilled, I can’t believe it’s happening,” said a businesswoman surnamed Shen, 55, who flew in from Hong Kong.
Others waiting at the airport included a group of women with long-lens cameras hoping to catch glimpse of the boy band Tempest, the first idol group from South Korea to enter China in three years.
“It’s so good to see them in person! They are much more handsome and taller than I expected,” said a 19-year-old who gave her name as Xiny, after chasing the seven-member group, who arrived in Beijing from Seoul.
Ill-equipped rural areas and mass travelers
While there have previously been a lot of measures in place to curb the spread of the virus, the mass migration of workers to their hometowns as well as the reopening of borders may lead to a surge in new cases in those smaller and rural areas that are less-equipped to deal with COVID emergencies.
The World Health Organization finally admitted on Wednesday that China in fact underrepresented the number of COVID hospitalizations and casualties.
However, government officials and government-controlled media publications defended the handling of the outbreak while playing down the severity of the survey and denouncing foreign travel requirements for Chinese residents.
Jiao Yahui, an official from the National Health Commission, said in an interview published by state broadcaster CCTV on Sunday that demand for emergency and critical care in China’s large cities had likely peaked but was rising fast in small and midsize cities and rural areas due to the Lunar New Year travel.
Some 80% of ICU beds in China’s top- and second-tier hospitals were in use, up from 54% on Dec. 25, she said, adding that the country’s medical services to treat COVID were facing an “unprecedented challenge”.
Even though the country might be easing the zero-COVID policy, it made it known that it’s not ruling out any possibility of taking emergency COVID prevention measures including the suspension of nonessential large-scale activities and business at large entertainment venues if there were future large outbreaks.
As of now, the official number of COVID casualties in the country is about 5,269 with the number of daily reported cases dropping to two per day from three.