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Saturday, January 28, 2023

Corona tests are now mandatory for travelers from China

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According to the amendment to the entry regulation, travelers from the People’s Republic of China must present a negative PCR test before departing for Austria, the Ministry of Health announced on Epiphany. The negative PCR test to be submitted must not be older than 48 hours, it said. The airlines are also recommended to make FFP2 masks compulsory for passengers. Next week only one flight from China will arrive in Vienna, Vienna Airport said on APA request. According to Austrian Airlines, the next flight from Shanghai will land in Vienna-Schwechat on Monday at 5:50 a.m. The PCR tests are checked by the ground staff at the airport during check-in in China.

Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) was satisfied with the rapid implementation, but has no concerns about the corona situation in Austria getting worse. In contrast to China, there is broad immunity in Austria against the omicron variant, which also dominates in China. The ministry also announced that the first sample had already been taken from the waste water tank of an airplane from Beijing at Vienna-Schwechat Airport. It will now be examined with sequencing for new virus variants. In the future, samples will also be taken regularly from the Hallstatt sewage treatment plant. The sewage treatment plants in Vienna and Salzburg are already part of the federal monitoring program. According to the ministry, this means that all places frequently visited by international tourists are regularly examined.

Many countries are introducing mandatory tests for the Chinese

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Rauch had announced the obligation to test on Thursday for the coming week. He joined the decisions of several governments worldwide. So far, Germany, Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands, Greece, France, Spain, Italy, Great Britain, the USA, Israel, Japan and Portugal have announced corona test requirements. Morocco even went a step further and banned all entry from China, regardless of the nationality of travelers.

Despite the opening, no major wave of travel from China is expected for the time being. The number of flights from China abroad is currently only around 10 percent of the volume before the pandemic. The tickets are very expensive. The authorities also want to issue or extend passports again, but primarily only for business and study trips. Conversely, China’s embassies want to issue more visas again. But here, too, business, work or study visits and family visits have priority. According to state media, the number of international flights is expected to at least double in the first half of 2023.

AUA currently offers a weekly flight between Vienna and Shanghai. From January 16, the airline will fly directly from Vienna to Shanghai twice a week, an Austrian Airlines spokeswoman told APA. With the additional connection on Mondays from Vienna and Wednesdays from Shanghai, Austrian is serving the “continued strong demand” for connections to and from China.

Above all, the strict quarantine requirement when entering China falls on Sunday. At times, travelers to China even had to spend three weeks in strict quarantine in a hotel room. Most recently, five days plus three days of isolation at home were required. China also continues to require a negative PCR test 48 hours before departure. Travelers to China are required to enter their PCR test result in the Chinese Customs Health Declaration. The Chinese Embassy in Vienna announced that this can be done via WeChat, the website (http://go.apa.at/fFZOhNkO) and the customs office app. Those who test positive are not allowed to travel. However, it is no longer necessary to apply for your own entry permit at the embassy, ​​but only to submit a health declaration.

Everything is different now with Corona

The country’s opening up comes a month after the abrupt reversal in the rigorous zero-Covid strategy implemented since early 2020, which has included lockdowns for tens of millions, mass testing and forced quarantine. After new omicron variants spread explosively, the second largest economy suffered increasingly from the measures and people protested against the strict measures, China’s government gave up its zero tolerance completely on December 7th. The reason for the change of course was the milder course of the disease.

Since then, a massive wave of infections has been rolling through China, hitting hospitals completely unprepared. According to estimates by London-based data processor Airfinity, 2.5 million people are currently newly infected in China every day, while 16,600 die every day. According to these estimates, there have already been 209,000 deaths. According to the projections, the number of corona deaths could increase to 1.7 million by the end of April.

While China’s health authorities are no longer releasing current figures, experts estimate that several hundred million Chinese may have been infected since early December. With such a large outbreak, the emergence of new variants is also feared. However, there is no evidence of this so far. Nevertheless, health authorities in some EU countries, such as Austria, want to carry out random checks on travelers and examine waste water from aircraft from China for possible new variants.

Despite the severe corona outbreak, domestic travel in the People’s Republic should recover to a large extent for the Chinese New Year on January 22nd. According to estimates, the travel volume should reach around 70 percent compared to the time before the pandemic, as reported by The Paper newspaper. Hundreds of millions of people traditionally travel to their home villages and visit relatives for the most important Chinese family festival.

Experts fear further waves of infection if the virus is carried from the metropolises that are now affected to the – even less prepared – inland provinces and rural areas. A particularly large number of old people live in rural China, and they are not sufficiently protected by vaccinations. Medical care outside of the cities is also often inadequate.

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