Friday, January 6, 2023

Richmond residents 'concerned' by new COVID pre-entry rules for Chinese travellers

Richmond residents 'concerned' by new COVID pre-entry rules for Chinese travellers

Air travellers from mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau flying to Canada will need to present a negative COVID-19 test starting Jan. 5.
Richmond residents have expressed their “concern” to a Richmond city councillor, as the federal government’s new travel restrictions for people coming from China kick in.

As of today, air travellers two years and older from China, Macau and Hong Kong will need to present, upon entry into Canada, a negative COVID-19 test just two days before their departure date.

When the news of the impending restrictions broke earlier this week, Coun. Chak Au was contacted by multiple Richmond residents, who had been concerned about screening for travellers” from the aforementioned areas.

“The (new federal) announcement has made people feel more relief,” said Au.

“We don’t know what we are letting into Canada with new variants of the virus in these Chinese areas.”

The after-entry tests can be either a PCR or antigen test with documentation that shows the test was done while being monitored by a telehealth service, a laboratory or testing provider, according to the Government of Canada.

The Chinese government is angry  that Canada and other countries are following new COVID-19 restrictions for people flying from China.

At a press conference held in Beijing on Tuesday, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said some rules are based on politics instead of science, citing Canada specifically.

                                                                                                                  "Open", when have they been open, after 5,000 years?

"Some of these measures are disproportionate and simply unacceptable," reads an official English transcript of Mao's remarks.

"We firmly reject using COVID measures for political purposes and will take corresponding measures in response."

Mao added that COVID-19 response measures “ be science-based and proportionate.”

“They should not be used for political manipulation, there should not be discriminatory measures against certain countries," Mao said, adding that variants can emerge anywhere.

Au told the Richmond News he couldn’t fathom what further “pushback” China would implement as the country already has COVID-19 restrictions in place for travellers entering the country.

China currently requires a negative COVID-19 test for all travellers entering the country while Canada’s screening policy only applies to people arriving from flights originating from mainland China, Hong Kong or Macau.

“Why is the Canadian screening unfair? China is regarded as a high-risk area right now, while Canada is  a low-risk region. That’s something I don’t understand,” said Au.

However, Au didn’t disregard the idea that people from Chinese communities are concerned the temporary testing policy sets them up for racist discrimination and bias.

"Chinese people can make the distinction between what is happening in China and what is happening to the people of our local community,” he said.

Au highlighted the Richmond community being the first city to adopt wearing masks and social distancing in response to the initial virus outbreak three years ago.

“I understand this screening wont contain the spread of this variant, maybe we can prevent it from spreading,” said Au.

“When China’s COVID-19 cases are not as high, we can then re-evaluate these travel restrictions and drop them.”


Concerns about racism and effectiveness as Canada prepares to test Chinese and others from China for COVID-19

As Canada prepares to renew COVID-19 restrictions on flights originating in China and parts of Asia, some are questioning how effective the measure will be — and whether there will be unintended consequences.

Starting Wednesday night, travellers leaving China, Hong Kong and Macao will need to show proof of a negative test before flying to Canada, amid concern about the new XBB 1.5 variant.

But experts are already questioning the science behind the move. Asked Monday if the move would prevent new variants from arriving in B.C., provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry replied,”Absolutely not.”

READ MORE: Canada’s COVID travel rules for China won’t stop spread of new variants: experts

Infectious diseases specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch, associate professor at University of Toronto’s Temerty Faculty of Medicine, told Global News the pandemic has already shown numerous times how geographic restrictions have failed.

He pointed to U.K. travel restrictions when the Alpha variant arrived, India restrictions when the Delta variant arrived and restrictions on African countries when the Omicron variant emerged, none of which stopped outbreaks in Canada.

“If you look at human mobility and the spread of infectious diseases, policy like this will not impact the COVID trajectory we have here in Canada,” he said.

“By the time you find a new variant of concern in point A, it’s already in point B, C, D, and E, so targeted restrictions to point A do not have a significant meaningful impact.”

Click to play video: 'Kraken variant in B.C. and China’s COVID travel restrictions set to take effect'
Kraken variant in B.C. and China’s COVID travel restrictions set to take effect

Tung Chan, a former Vancouver city councillor and former CEO of non-profit SUCCESS, warned that the new measure risks once again stigmatizing Asian Canadians.

During the height of the pandemic, there was a surge in anti-Chinese reaction in B.C., including graffiti and slurs as some people related the virus with the Chinese community.

Chan believes the testing requirements are the result of the federal government caving to international “peer pressure,” but that the move could reinvigorate the same response.

“One thing we have to do … is to disassociate Asians, in in this case Chinese-Canadians, from the country of China — As long as we continue to associate Canadians living Canada who are of Chinese heritage and lump them together with China the country, even though they live together in the same community, we will always have this kind of conundrum,” he said.

READ MORE: B.C. health officials monitoring COVID subvariant ‘Kraken’ spreading in U.S., Asia

The measure, however, has won support in other quarters.

Richmond City councillor Chak Au told Global News he was already getting calls from concerned community members about travellers from China before Ottawa announced the testing requirements.

“This is going to give better protection of the local people, especially in Richmond. We are the airport city, so people concerned about travellers coming in, bringing the virus,” he said.

“Secondly, I think this is about getting more information. We have to track the information about the new variants that might come to Canada.”

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: China hits back at travel restrictions, EU offers free vaccines to Beijing amid surge in cases'
COVID-19: China hits back at travel restrictions, EU offers free vaccines to Beijing amid surge in cases

Au said he understands concerns about racism, but said the government and community groups had done much to combat anti-Asian hate in the last two years.

The testing measures, he added, are temporary.

“So lets wait and see,” he said.

The XBB 1.5 variant, which is spreading rapidly in China and is believe to now account for about 40 per cent of cases in the U.S.

Bonnie Henry said Monday that the province was monitoring it to see whether it is more transmissible or dangerous.

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