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COVID controls still curb tourism abroad

By WANG XIAODONG | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2020-11-13 09:07

China's outbound tourism will continue under tight controls as the country intensifies efforts to cope with the rising risks of imported infections of the novel coronavirus during winter, a senior official said on Thursday.

Although domestic travel during the recent National Day holiday boomed, caution should be exercised over relaxing international travel considering the seriousness of the pandemic overseas, Luo Zhaohui, vice-foreign minister, said at a news conference hosted by the State Council Information Office.

"We do not recommend people touring abroad," he said."For those who have to go abroad for humanitarian purposes or other reasons, it is important for them to take good self-protective measures and have full knowledge of COVID-19 prevention and control policies at their countries of destination."

Outbound tourism has ground to a halt since late January as part of government efforts to bring the epidemic under control. All group tours to overseas destinations have been suspended since then even as COVID-19 has been brought well under control domestically for months.

Li Bin, vice-minister of the National Health Commission, said control and prevention efforts will only be strengthened due to higher risks of imported infections during the winter, which is also a peak season for other respiratory infections.

"China faces increasing risks of domestically transmitted outbreaks caused by COVID-19 cases from overseas, considering the accelerating spread of the pandemic globally," he said. "Scattered outbreaks will occur in the winter, and cluster infections may occur in certain areas."

Intensified measures will be taken to stop the virus from entering China, including requiring all inbound travelers to receive nucleic acid tests before entering China, and intensifying inspection and quarantine of imported cold-chain foods, which have shown to be capable of carrying and transmitting the virus, Li said.

China has reported over 3,600 imported COVID-19 cases since the pandemic's start, Luo said. The average daily number of imported cases in October was 16.6, a month-on-month increase of 45 percent, he said.

Bi Kexin, chief of the Bureau of Import and Export Food Safety at the General Administration of Customs, said customs officers across China have intensified inspection and quarantine measures taken with inbound travelers to prevent importation of the virus, and more precise and effective measures will be taken to minimize risks over the winter.

Luo said China has continued to promote cross-border exchanges of personnel and goods and economic recovery even during the worst of the epidemic through expedited procedures, and prevention and control measures will be adjusted according to the pandemic's development.

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