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It was almost three years ago that the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Wuhan, China. The World Health Organization designated the outbreak a pandemic three months later and advised that steps be taken to stop the virus’s spread.
In these initial stages China closed its borders, isolated people diagnosed with COVID-19, and implemented wide scale lockdowns when cases were found in the community.
As a result of the so-called zero-Covid strategy, the economy suffered and people became weary of the limitations and constant testing.
After resentment over the program erupted into unusually large-scale public demonstrations against President Xi Jinping in November, the government quickly abandoned the Covid regulations.
Yesterday China announced that it will scrap quarantine for travellers from 8 January, marking the last major shift from the country’s zero-Covid policy after almost three years of closed borders, widespread lockdowns, and strict mandatory quarantine for Covid cases and contacts.
This could have both good and bad outcomes for Thailand.
FDI inflows could slow down
Doing business in China has been more difficult recently due to escalating salaries and a trade conflict with the US. Because of this, many businesses began diversifying their supply chains outside of the nation even before the first COVID-19 cases were identified.
However, COVID-zero further compounded this feeling by adversely affecting many international corporations. Foreign investment surged by 74% for the first 11 months in Thailand of this year with Japan, Singapore and the United States topping foreign investor nations, respectively.
China’s reopening could slow down this influx given that harsh lockdown and quarantine quagmire could be a thing of the past
Chinese Tourism boom
After Beijing said it would stop the mandatory Covid quarantine for foreign newcomers on Tuesday, ending almost three years of self-imposed isolation, Chinese reacted with joy and rushed to book tickets outside.
In 2019, Chinese tourists accounted for 28% of the nearly 40 million international tourists to the kingdom.
Following China’s recent declaration of relaxing restrictions on international flights, Thailand is anticipating the return of Chinese tourists.
Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn told China’s official Xinhua news agency on Saturday (31 Dec) that his ministry was “very pleased to learn that China will implement new border control measures from January 8 onward,” adding that this was “long-awaited good news for Thailand”.
Chinese Covid boom ?
However, according to initial estimates, the infection rate of Chinese tourists with Covid is close to 50%.
Two flights to Milan were among the first to see passengers subjected to new mandatory tests imposed on Chinese travelers: on the first flight, out of 92 passengers, 35 (38%) tested positive, and on the second, out of 120 passengers, 62 (52%) tested positive.
As Chinese hospitals and crematoriums are overwhelmed by the Covid wave, officials have insisted the outbreak is “under control” while acknowledging that the true scale of infections is “impossible” to track.
China on Sunday reported more than 5,100 new infections and one Covid-related death out of its population of 1.4 billion – but the numbers appear to be out of step with the reality on the ground.