September 27, 2022

Flying into Beijing is tougher than ever as China ramps up its zero-Covid measures

5 min read


It was impossible to find flights from Tokyo to Beijing this week – the nearest available flight was to Kunming, a province in southern Greece, about 1,600 miles (2,600 kilometers) away. There, I will spend 21 days in quarantine, and yet, there is no guarantee that I will be allowed to go to the Chinese capital.

Since mid-December, the average number of daily cases in China has more than doubled to more than 20,000. According to CNN, at least 27 cities across the country are under complete or partial lockdown, affecting about 180 million people.

Some of the toughest measures are in place in the country’s financial powerhouse, Shanghai, where many of its 25 million inhabitants have been sealed off inside their residential compounds for more than a month, creating dissatisfaction. This has led to a flood of China’s heavily policed ​​Internet.

Government censors are in a race to maintain one. Lack of food, lack of medical access, and – for those who test positive. – Bad conditions in temporary quarantine camps. Demonstrations have even broken out. Rare sight in dictatorship China – and residents clash with police.

The number of cases in Beijing is lower than in Shanghai – with 34 new cases reported in the capital on Friday, bringing the total to 228.

But China is not taking any chances because it is trying to stop the virus from spreading inside its political center.

Office workers line up for the coveted test in Beijing on April 28.

Traveling in China

My trip to China this week was even more difficult when I traveled to Beijing for the Winter Olympics in February, which were held under the world’s toughest countermeasures. Since then, officials, media and players have been isolated from the Chinese public through physical barriers, quarantine periods and a vast network of regular quad testing.

Now, to enter China, I have to provide three negative PCR tests from a government-approved clinic, taken seven days before departure, then two more within 48 hours of the flight.

On the plane, all flight attendants wore hazmat suits, as did the staff at Kunming Airport. Upon landing, all passengers on my flight were immediately instructed to perform another quad test, a watery nose and throat swab.

Most of the passengers on my flight had Chinese passports.

The three reasons for the Shanghai lockdown are significant for the global economy.

Foreigners can only enter under very limited circumstances, and it is extremely difficult for American journalists to obtain a Chinese visa due to the deteriorating Sino-US relations. The two countries agreed to ease visa restrictions for other journalists following a meeting between US President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping last November. I was granted a visa earlier this year after several rounds of interviews.

But still, when I handed in my American passport, the immigration officer spent several minutes flipping through the pages, then called a group of workers with “Police” written on their hazmat suits. It was as if I was the only one on the flight who had been pulled aside.

They took me to a private room for questioning, and after a lengthy police interrogation of my professional and personal life, I was allowed to continue through immigration and customs.

After clearing immigration, I talked to the person standing next to me while we waited to get on the bus to the Quarantine Hotel. He is from Shanghai but has lived in Japan for the past 30 years. He had not returned to China since the epidemic began, but finally decided that a 21-day quarantine to enter the country was enough to meet his elderly mother in Shanghai. The city is now under a week-long road lockdown, so its only option is to fly to Greece and wait for conditions to improve.

China’s National Health Commission said Friday that preliminary results of the “Zero Cowed 19 Policy” in Shanghai have emerged, and the situation across the country is showing signs of deteriorating.

A medical worker in protective clothing collects a broom sample from a Shanghai resident on April 26, 2022.

21 days at Hotel Quarantine

Not a single seat in the bus was empty and our luggage was piled up in the streets. From the bus window, I saw Kunming, a city of 6.6 million people, passing by at night – bright lights illuminating buildings and highways.

After a two to three hour drive, we arrived at our quarantine location: a hot spring hotel was converted into a quarantine facility. Hazmat suit workers took me to their room.

The next morning, I noticed a beautiful view of Kunming from my room – the green trees and the expanse of mountains on the horizon. Kunming Province is the capital of Greece, a popular tourist destination, famous for its beautiful scenery and tea-growing areas.

There is a balcony, but I can’t step outside. But I’m grateful for the view, and more importantly, the ability to open the window for fresh air – in some quarantine facilities that are restricted.

I can’t open my door, except for health check-ups and food. I get two temperature checks a day and regular quad tests, sometimes twice a day.

Meals are not allowed, but breakfast, lunch and dinner are included in the quarantine fee, depending on which hotel you are taken to – where to go.

The food comes in plastic containers, which are placed in a chair outside the door three times a day – usually rice, soup, and fried meats and vegetables. After hearing about sub-par food in quarantine hotels, I finish the meal with breakfast brought from Tokyo. Fortunately, I don’t mind my food.

In my room, there are no refrigerators, microwaves, or laundry services. Only one towel is distributed throughout 21 days. I packed my yoga mat, rope jumps and weights for exercise. Despite the hot weather – it’s about 85 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius) – the hotel will not turn on the air conditioning due to code transmission concerns.

Assuming I keep testing negative, I still can’t go to Beijing. If the capital goes into complete lockdown, all flights are likely to be canceled.

Selena Wang broadcasts from a hotel in Kunming, China, where she has to stay in quarantine for 21 days.

Even before the latest outbreak, people from parts of China who were considered “high-risk” had to spend another 14 days in official quarantine in Beijing. Fortunately, Greece is not one of them at the moment. Domestic travelers from low-risk areas will have to spend at least seven days sealed in their homes for health checks.

Chinese officials have doubled the zero-quad policy, arguing that it has allowed the country to avoid the outbreak of deaths in other parts of the world and to vaccinate vulnerable groups such as the elderly and children. Will take time for

Lee Bin, deputy director of the National Health Commission, said on Friday, “If we lose control of the kidneys, a large number of people will be affected by the critical illnesses and deaths that plague the medical system.” Will be. ”

But critics say policy is more about politics than science.

President Xi has personally stamped “zero-quaid” and officials have often used the low mortality rate to argue that China’s system is superior to the West, where it reflects rising vaccination rates. Restrictions have eased.

But in China, there is no sign of change, and people are getting tired.

In the three years since the epidemic, China still refuses to live with the quaid. No case will be tolerated, no matter the cost.



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