Concerns in India about the return of Chinese travelers after easing of restrictions

Concerns in India about the return of Chinese travelers after easing of restrictions

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The Chinese government says it will start issuing new passports as it dismantles anti-virus travel barriers, creating a potential rush of millions of tourists out of China for the Lunar New Year holiday in January. This prospect poses a danger, as tourists could spread COVID-19 as infections rise in China.

India has strengthened surveillance with a 2% random sampling of foreign passengers to be administered at airports. Those from China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Thailand are also required to present a negative COVID test upon arrival in India.

While there is some panic in India following a significant increase in COVID-19 cases in China, experts note that India continues to show a sustained declining trajectory of cases in recent months. A new “substantial wave” is unlikely to be seen if there are no new variants in China.

Giridhar R. Babu, head of life cycle epidemiology at the Public Health Foundation of India in Bengaluru, and a member of the Karnataka COVD-19 Technical Advisory Committee (CAT) said that “there can be a wave only when a new variant emerges which India has not seen before, however, proactive evidence-based planning of enhanced surveillance and genomic sequencing is needed.”

In a series of tweets, virologist Gagandeep Kang said that India is doing well and will not require travel restrictions from now on. “The variants now circulating in China have been in the rest of the world for months. The behavior of the virus is no different than expected. In India we also already have XBB and BF.7 (both are promoted as new monsters). They are, like all Omicron subvariants, very good at infecting people because they evade the immune response that prevents infection, but they do not cause more severe disease than Delta.”

CAT Chairman MK Sudarshan said that although the local situation is very good, it is fertile for the circulation of the virus. “We will have to see how the BF.7 variant will perform in India. Even if there is an increase, it is unlikely that we will see increased mortality. But, with large international arrivals expected and in view of the holiday and end-of-year celebrations, we need to be more cautious. All public social activities/events should take place outdoors or in well-ventilated areas and during the day, avoiding exposure to the cold,” he said.

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Written by Editor TLN

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