CHINA HAS MAINTAINED stringent restrictions on inbound international travel for fear of an imported wave of Covid-19. Travellers who have been allowed to arrive are subject to mandatory quarantine. There is talk that this state of affairs will continue until at least the Beijing Winter Olympics in February next year.
However, in the meantime, it may open one carefully controlled centralised airlock. Late last month, Zhong Nanshan, one of China’s most eminent epidemiologists and one of the architects of its early containment and prevention measures, revealed plans to build a giant quarantine centre in Guangzhou capable of accommodating almost all international travellers entering China and isolating some 5,000 at a time. Residents from high-risk areas locally would also be isolated there. A similar facility is being considered for Shenzhen, Zhong said.
An outbreak of the highly contagious Delta variant is already spreading in the region, and existing quarantine arrangements to isolate travellers in hotels are not working. Further, the domestically-made vaccines appear to be less effective in suppressing the Delta variant than Pfizer and Moderna’s.
The ‘track and trace’ programme in Guangdong has become more stringent, and travel from the province to other parts of the country has been restricted from the start of this month to residents who can show a negative Covid-19 test with the previous 48 hours and need to travel.
The impact on the container port cluster in the Pearl River estuary (Yantian, Shekou, Chiwan and Nansha), a hub for the country’s manufactured exports, has been to extend turnaround times for shipping since late May, with delays of more than two weeks being reported. These delays are now easing, but they remain high and vulnerable to further local Covid-19 lockdowns, adding another bottleneck to supply chains.