Support for China restrictions, as first flights land

Pre-departure tests required for China travellers

A group representing Australia’s Chinese community says the decision to impose restrictions on people entering from the mainland is not unreasonable.

The government has come under fire for going against the chief medical officer’s advice not to impose the requirement for a negative COVID-19 test within 48 hours of departure from China, Hong Kong and Macau.

The testing rules came into force on Thursday.

But Chinese Australian Forum President Simon Chan said while medical experts said it wasn’t necessary, there was a dearth of information coming out of Beijing.

He 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 ABC radio on Thursday.

“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.”

Kirby Institute associate professor Stuart Turville said it was too early to know if the Omicron-descendant would bring more serious illness and hospitalisations.

“There is a lot of hysteria on social media saying this is the next big one,” Dr Turville said.

“Until the data is in hand, it’s just crystal ball-gazing.”

The World Health Organisation said on Thursday that data from China showed no new COVID variant had been found there but the country was underrepresenting how many people have died in its rapidly spreading outbreak.

China has been reporting daily COVID deaths in single figures.

WHO emergencies director Mike Ryan said numbers being published from China underrepresented hospital admissions, intensive care unit patients and “particularly in terms of death”.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the UN agency was seeking more rapid and regular data from China on hospitalisations and deaths.

“WHO is concerned about the risk to life in China and has reiterated the importance of vaccination, including booster doses to protect against hospitalisation, severe disease and death,” he said.

China’s foreign ministry has slammed the introduction of mandatory COVID tests, despite having the same entry requirement for arrivals to its own shores, and threatened reciprocal measures.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said the entry restrictions targeting China lacked a scientific basis.

“We are firmly opposed to attempts to manipulate the COVID measures for political purposes and will take countermeasures based on the principle of reciprocity,” she said.

Emergency Management Minister Murray Watt hit back, saying the measure was modest.

“That reflects the kind of policies that they’ve decided to take in relation to their own country,” he told Sky News on Thursday.

China has dropped most of its strict COVID measures. But it does still require incoming travellers to produce a negative PCR test.

Senator Watt stopped short of branding China’s response hypocritical.

No time frame has been set for the new measure, but Senator Watt said it was temporary.

“Hopefully, China will make a decision to become more transparent in its data sharing and provide information about genetic genomic sequencing,” he said.

“That might mean these measures may not need to continue but we have said we will keep this in place for the moment so we can get a better handle on what the situation is in China.”

Deputy Liberal leader Sussan Ley again called for the government to explain its rationale.

“It’s not about [China], it’s about what we do with our international borders,” she told Nine radio.

“This government is not following medical advice, so they need to explain what advice they are following and … the rationale for their decision.”

One country that won’t follow suit is New Zealand, which opted against the negative test requirement after determining Chinese visitors wouldn’t significantly lift its overall caseload.

-with AAP

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