‘Wag muna’: Concerns raised over COVID-19 surge in China amid January reopening

December 29, 2022 - 8:17 AM
Medical workers attend to patients at the intensive care unit of the emergency department at Beijing Chaoyang hospital, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Beijing, China December 27, 2022. (China Daily via REUTERS)

Filipinos expressed worry over the still-lingering COVID-19 crisis in mainland China now that the country’s flagship carrier resumed services to one of its cities.

Philippine Airlines on December 23 advised its passengers that it is resuming its Manila to Xiamen flights after nearly three years since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

Xiamen is a first-class port city in China that lies across Taiwan.

PAL said that its Xiamen flight services will start on Jan. 13, 2023, with an initial one flight per week.

“Dear PAL passengers, good news! We will bring back our Manila-Xiamen-Manila flights starting January 13, 2023, initially with one flight per week. We are glad to be back to serving mainland China,” PAL’s advisory reads.

“We encourage you to periodically check the website of your arrival point for the latest travel information and other important updates,” PAL also said.

The airline advised the following schedule for the resumed China trip:

  • PR 330 Manila-Xiamen – every Friday departing Manila at 7:30 a.m., arriving in Xiamen at 9:55 a.m.
  • PR 331 Xiamen-Manila – every Friday departing Xiamen at 11:55 a.m., arriving in Manila at 2:30 p.m.

This announcement was welcomed by some Filipinos who have missed traveling to the East Asian nation since the pandemic.

Others, however, raised concerns, mentioning the reported worsening COVID-19 situation in several Chinese cities.

“Why? When there’s [a] surge in China?” one user said.

“May surge ngayon ng COVID sa China tapos nag open pa kayo ng flights dun,” another user commented.

Several Filipinos also appealed to PAL to reconsider this decision.

“Wag muna dahil marami pang active na COVID sa China at kung tuloy yan marami na naman mahawaan dito, cancel muna yan,” one user said.

“Di ba tumaas ang COVID infection sa China? Isip isip po muna!” another user commented.

Others also made emphasis on Omicron BF.7, a new variant of COVID-19.

“Oh, kaka announce lang may bagong variant na COVID bat niyo open yan?” one user said.

“Bagong COVID ‘23 variant na mas malala soon?” another user said with a thinking emoji.

New crisis amid reopening

Starting on January 8, 2023, China will downgrade its COVID-19 restrictions from the top-level Category A to the less strict Category B.

This includes removing its strict quarantine policy for inbound travelers. The following requirements are still in place, so far:

  • Five days of mandatory quarantine at a state-supervised facility
  • Three additional days of mandatory quarantine at their residences

Inbound travelers will thus only be required to undergo RT-PCR testing 48 hours before departure to China.

READ: China to scrap COVID quarantine rule for inbound travelers 

These ease in border restrictions, however, cost its citizens a new wave of the COVID crisis.

International reports talked about overwhelmed hospitals, an unchecked surge in COVID-19 infections and a shortage of COVID-19 medicine and supplies in different parts of China.

READ: Chinese hospitals ‘extremely busy’ as COVID spreads unchecked 

The New York Times reported that Chinese medical front liners themselves were also contracting the virus, thus further depleting the already-strained health system.

Moreover, the report also stated that there were questions about the official tally of deaths because the Chinese government only counts “those who die from respiratory failure directly linked to a Covid infection.”

Officially, China recorded only seven people who have died due to COVID-19 since the curb of its pandemic restrictions on December 7.