China is sending flights full of Covid positive people to the world in terrifying 2020 deja vu

Amrutha Pagad
Amrutha PagadDec 29, 2022 | 16:50

China is sending flights full of Covid positive people to the world in terrifying 2020 deja vu

Is it a rerun of 2020 when China was exporting Covid and the world watched? GIF: DailyO

The world is eager to welcome 2023 where Covid can finally be left in the past and where wearing a face mask is not mandatory. But as soon as things seem to be getting back to normal, China is blowing up with record-breaking Covid infections. The problem? China has opened up and Chinese people are flying all over the world... with Covid. And all over again, it feels like December 2019 and the start of 2020. 


What's happening? Remember Milan 2020, when people were dying like flies on the road due to overcrowded hospitals and stretched medical facilities? 

  • Well, the same city recently reported that 50% of all arrivals from China on two flights tested positive for Covid-19.
  • The Covid samples have been sent for sequencing to find out whether there is the presence of a new variant
  • If a new strain is found, Italy may impose stricter rules for passengers arriving from China. 
  • According to reports, most of those who tested positive were asymptomatic. 
  • Now, Italian authorities are testing all passengers arriving from China; even those who are transiting through the country. 

What happened in 2020? Milan in the northern Lombardy region in Italy became the epicentre of Europe's Covid-19 outbreak in early 2020. 

  • This was due to Italy's special China connection. Italy's luxury designer brands such as Gucci and Prada have their headquarters in Milan and outsource the manufacturing to Chinese labour. 
  • Specifically, Milan fashion houses outsource manufacturing to China's Wuhan, the city where Covid-19 is believed to have originated. 
  • Italy used to boast of direct flights between Milan and Wuhan in 2020; however, now there are no direct flights between the two cities. 
  • There's only one direct flight from Milan to Wuhan offered by Cathay Pacific. But none were found from Wuhan to Milan.  
  • In 2020, Italy's Covid cases and deaths surpassed that of China. One report noted how the Chinese government effectively locked down its cities and domestic movement, but 'pushed' for international travel till April 2020.  
  • When Italy banned flights from China, the then Chinese vice-minister for foreign affairs Qin Gang met with his Italian counterparts and called the ban a "great inconvenience". 

This time, governments seem to be better informed (hopefully) given the measures being put in place despite protests by the Chinese government. After the US imposed a few Covid restrictions on travellers coming from China, Beijing called all the news on the Covid-19 surge in China 'hype'. 

Check out the travel restrictions imposed on passengers from China by various countries:  

INDIA: Starting January 1, 2023, India will require all passengers arriving from China, Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea and Thailand to show a negative PCR certificate dated no more than 72 hours before their journey. 

  • India says that the next 40 days are the most crucial to ascertain the direction this new Covid wave will take. According to experts, India has often experienced a surge in Covid cases 35 days after the virus is reported in East Asian countries.  

US: Starting January 5, 2023, the US will make it mandatory for everyone 2 years and above arriving from China, Macau, and Hong Kong to show a negative Covid test. 


JAPAN: Arrivals from mainland China and those who travelled to the country seven days before their arrival will be tested for Covid-19 on their arrival from December 30. 

  • On the other hand, Japan reported the highest-ever single-day Covid-19 deaths at 415.
  • Moreover, Tokyo was also forced to reverse its Covid curbs on passengers arriving from Hong Kong. 
  • Hong Kong is easing travel restrictions for those coming in from China. 

TAIWAN: Those arriving from mainland China will be tested on arrival for Covid-19. The rule also applies to those arriving by boat. 

MALAYSIA: The country reportedly has tracking and surveillance measures in place for passengers arriving from China. 

Other major countries like the UK and Australia don't yet have any special measures for passengers from China. 

China's 'let it rip' policy: As countries are stepping up measures on passengers arriving from China, Beijing has lifted all Covid policies whatsoever. Starting January 8, China will also open up its borders for cross-border travel. With the Chinese New Year falling on January 22, a lot of people are expected to be making foreign travel. 

  • Given the fact that China was cooped up under its draconian zero-Covid tolerance policy for a long time, the Chinese are said to be hungry for travel, with searches for Macau, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, and Thailand increasing 10-fold. 
  • China's hospitals are overflowing with Covid patients, with some of them dying without getting any medical attention. But the CCP has reversed any and almost all Covid restrictions after nationwide protests over the draconian zero-Covid policy. 
  • But data on China's infection rate is unclear

In 2019 and early 2020, the world (very erroneously) thought that the novel coronavirus was just a little winter flu. Even as China blew up with surging infections and fudged data, countries did not put any measures in place to stop the spread of the virus to their countries. 

Trade was more important and a worldwide pandemic was the story of the middle ages... until it was not. 

Two years later, after seeing people dying on the roads, in ambulances, waiting for a bed in packed hospitals, and depleting supplies, the world seems to be hearing the same story repeated from the very place the virus came from - China. 

Hopefully, this time the results will be different and governments around the world are expected to take more precautions. The one big difference between 2020 and now is vaccination.

Last updated: December 29, 2022 | 16:50
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