Gov’t keeping close watch on travellers from China

THE Jamaican Government will not at this time be imposing restrictions on travellers from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) despite a surge in COVID-19 cases in that country, but is keeping a close eye on developments.

In response to Jamaica Observer queries regarding the situation in China, Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton said the Cabinet and Prime Minister Andrew Holness will continue to be updated and “any decision or change as it relates to restrictions would be a decision at that level, having had the benefit of advice from the technocrats”.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Jacquiline Bisasor McKenzie announced on Wednesday that the Ministry of Health and Wellness is “closely monitoring and gathering data on the COVID-19 situation in China and other parts of the world”.

“There are particular circumstances in China that have led to an increase in their numbers. We are also well aware of the changes in climate and the increase in travelling and crowding at this time, which will cause an uptick in viral illnesses, including COVID-19,” Dr Bisasor McKenzie said.

She said the ministry is again urging Jamaicans to practise the infection prevention and control measures to safeguard against respiratory illnesses, such as COVID-19, by washing hands frequently, wearing a mask, avoiding crowds, and getting vaccinated.

“In the coming days the ministry will further update the country on this and other public health matters,” Dr Bisasor McKenzie said.

She further reminded the public that COVID-19 vaccines are available at health centres across the island.

“Persons who have not been vaccinated should go and get vaccinated and persons who have not received their booster should go and do so at this time,” she said.

Amid reports of the increased COVID-19 cases in China and its Government’s announcement to ease travel restrictions and lessen COVID-19 health protocols, several countries, including the United States, have moved to implement restrictions on travellers from China.

On Wednesday the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that, with effect from January 5, the United States will require all travellers over the age of two from China and the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau to show a negative COVID-19 test or documentation of recovery before entering the US.

“The CDC is announcing this step to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the United States during the surge in COVID-19 cases in the PRC, given the lack of adequate and transparent epidemiological and viral genomic sequence data being reported from the PRC. These data are critical to monitor the case surge effectively and decrease the chance for entry of a novel variant of concern. CDC will continue to monitor the situation and adjust our approach as necessary,” the entity stated.

There have been growing concerns internationally regarding China’s increasing COVID-19 cases and travellers from that country

During the height of the pandemic, the country issued limited passports and visas, allowing them only for family emergencies or some work travel, but The Associated Press (AP) reported that the Chinese Government announced Tuesday that it will begin taking applications for tourism passports on January 8.

The AP also reported that the National Immigration Administration of China will also take applications to extend, renew, or reissue visas.

Reports from cities have suggested that the ongoing COVID-19 wave in China has infected tens and possibly hundreds of millions of people, the AP reported, and could lead to between one million and two million deaths in that country through late 2023.

Also, according to AP, China’s Government has ceased reporting nationwide COVID-19 case numbers, and took it off the list of illnesses that require quarantining. Officials also plan to stop tracking close contacts.

Like the US, other countries have begun to impose new COVID-19 measures on travellers coming from China as international travel resumes in that country.

Japan will require a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival for travellers from China, and those who test positive will have to undergo a week in quarantine. Tokyo also plans to limit airlines increasing flights to China.

South Korea will also tests travellers if they have elevated temperatures, the AP reported, and will require a one-week home or hotel quarantine for anyone who tests positive. Taiwan, meanwhile, will start testing visitors from China on January 1.

Additionally, Malaysia has put in place additional tracking and surveillance measures.

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