Foreign firms: China ‘turns corner’ by ending quarantine

Dec 27, 2022, 2:56 AM | Updated: 6:10 pm
A resident wears a mask as he stands near the Lama Temple in Beijing, Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2022. Compa...

A resident wears a mask as he stands near the Lama Temple in Beijing, Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2022. Companies welcomed China's decision to end quarantines for travelers from abroad as an important step to revive slumping business activity while Japan on Tuesday announced restrictions on visitors from the country as infections surge. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

(AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

BEIJING (AP) — Foreign companies welcomed China’s decision to end quarantines for travelers from abroad as an important step to revive slumping business activity while Japan on Tuesday joined India in announcing restrictions on visitors from the country as infections surge.

The ruling Communist Party’s abrupt decision to lift some of the world’s strictest anti-virus controls comes as it tries reverse an economic downturn. It has ended curbs that confined millions of people to their homes and sparked protests, but hospitals have been flooded with feverish, wheezing patients as the virus spreads.

The announcement late Monday that quarantines for travelers from abroad will end Jan. 8 is the biggest step toward ending limits that have kept most foreign visitors out of China since early 2020. Quarantines were reduced last month from seven days to five.

Also Monday, the government downgraded the official seriousness of COVID-19 and dropped a requirement for people with the virus to be quarantined. That added to a rapid drumbeat of steps to dismantle controls that had been expected to stay in place at least through mid-2023.

“It finally feels like China has turned the corner,” the chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, Colm Rafferty, said in a statement. He said ending the quarantine “clears the way for resumption of normal business travel.”

Business groups have warned companies were shifting investment away from China because foreign executives were blocked from visiting.

The American chamber said more than 70% of companies that responded to a poll this month expect the impact of the latest wave of outbreaks to last no more than three months, ending in early 2023.

The British Chamber of Commerce expressed hope China will restart normal processing of business visas to allow “resumption of crucial people to people exchanges.” It said that will “contribute to restoring optimism and reinstating China as a priority investment destination.”

The move “will potentially boost business confidence,” but companies are likely to “wait to see how the situation on the ground evolves” before making long-term decisions, the European Chamber of Commerce in China said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Japan announced visitors from China will undergo virus tests starting Friday as a “temporary emergency measure.”

Visitors who test positive will be quarantined for one week, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced. He said Japan also would reduce a planned increase in the number of flights between Japan and China “just to be safe.”

That follows India’s decision last week to begin requiring a negative virus test for travelers from China, Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea and Thailand.

India also randomly tests 2% of airline passengers arriving from abroad. Visitors who test positive or have symptoms will be quarantined.

A foreign ministry spokesman defended China’s handling of the latest outbreaks.

“The Chinese government has always followed the principle of science-based and targeted measures,” said Wang Wenbin. He called for a “science-based response and coordinated approach” to keep travel safe and “promote a steady and sound recovery of the world economy.”

China kept its infection rate low with a “zero COVID” strategy that aimed to stamp out virus transmission by isolating every case. That prompted complaints controls were too extreme and counterproductive.

Starting last month, the ruling party has gradually joined the United States and other governments that are trying to live with the virus by treating infections instead of imposing blanket quarantines on cities or neighborhoods.

The ruling party announced changes Nov. 11 it said were aimed at reducing disruptions after economic activity slid. More changes were announced following protests that erupted Nov. 25 in Shanghai and other cities.

The government has stopped reporting nationwide case numbers but announcements by some cities indicate at least tens and possibly hundreds of millions of people might have been infected since the surge began in early October.

The outbreaks prompted complaints Beijing relaxed controls too abruptly. Officials say the wave began before the changes.

The government “should have done the job in a more meticulous way,” said Lu Haoming, a Beijing architect. “Although the death rate of this disease is not as serious as at the beginning, the first shock has still been quite severe.”

But he agreed with the decision to open up. “You have to import and export, right?” Lu said. “Although we did a good job of epidemic control this year, the economy was greatly harmed.”

China only counts deaths from pneumonia or respiratory failure in its official COVID-19 toll, a health official said last week. That excludes many deaths other countries would attribute to COVID-19.

Experts have forecast 1 to 2 million deaths in China through the end of 2023.

The National Health Commission announced a campaign Nov. 29 to raise the vaccination rate among older Chinese. Health experts say that is crucial to avoiding a health care crisis.

On Monday, the National Health Commission downgraded COVID-19 from a Class A infectious disease to a Class B disease and removed it from the list of illnesses that require quarantine. It said authorities would stop tracking down close contacts and designating areas as being at high or low risk of infection.

___

AP Writer Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo and video producers Wayne Zhang and Olivia Zhang in Beijing contributed.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

This photo taken with a drone shows portions of a Norfolk and Southern freight train that derailed ...
Associated Press

Evacuations urged in Ohio town as train wreck smolders

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (AP) — A smoldering tangle of dozens of derailed freight cars, some carrying hazardous materials, has kept an evacuation order in effect in Ohio near the Pennsylvania state line as environmental authorities warily watch air quality monitors. About 50 cars derailed in East Palestine at about 9 p.m. Friday as a train […]
14 hours ago
This image released by Universal Pictures shows Dave Bautista, from left, Abby Quinn, and Nikki Amu...
Associated Press

‘Knock at the Cabin’ knocks off ‘Avatar’ at the box office

NEW YORK (AP) — For the first time in almost two months, the box office doesn’t belong to blue people. After seven weeks as the top film in theaters, “Avatar: The Way of Water” was finally knocked out of the No. 1 spot by the M. Night Shyamalan thriller “Knock at the Cabin” and the […]
14 hours ago
NASCAR Cup Series drivers Chris Buescher (17) and Alex Bowman (48) participate during a practice se...
Associated Press

Ally Financial expands NASCAR spend with 2 new partnerships

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Ally Financial has expanded its growing portfolio as a top NASCAR sponsor with a deal to become the official bank of the stock car series and NASCAR-owned race tracks. The multiyear deal was announced Sunday ahead of NASCAR’s exhibition extravaganza at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and led to the creation […]
14 hours ago
President Joe Biden speaks at the Democratic National Committee winter meeting, Friday, Feb. 3, 202...
Associated Press

Biden’s State of the Union to tout policy wins on economy

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden will use his second State of the Union address on Tuesday to remind Americans of how their lives have been improved over his first two years in office, as he tries to confront pessimism in the country and navigate the tricky politics of a newly divided Washington. Rather than […]
14 hours ago
(Pexels Photo)...
Associated Press

NFL offering free CPR training during Super Bowl week

The NFL and American Heart Association will provide free CPR education in Arizona throughout Super Bowl week as part of the NFL Experience.
14 hours ago
/// State Sen. Clarence Lam, a Maryland Democrat who is a physician at Johns Hopkins, speaks during...
Associated Press

As many as 80K Marylanders could lose Medicaid eligibility

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland officials are preparing for as many as 80,000 residents who could no longer qualify for Medicaid coverage this spring, as the federal government reinstates a requirement that existed before the COVID-19 pandemic for states to verify the eligibility of recipients. Michele Eberle, the executive director of the Maryland Health Benefit […]
14 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Fiesta Bowl Foundation

Celebrate 50 years of Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade magic!

Since its first production in the early 1970s, the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe has been a staple of Valley traditions, bringing family fun and excitement to downtown Phoenix.
...
Quantum Fiber

Stream 4K and more with powerful, high-speed fiber internet

Picking which streaming services to subscribe to are difficult choices, and there is no room for internet that cannot handle increased demands.
...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
Foreign firms: China ‘turns corner’ by ending quarantine