Coronavirus travel bans: shutting the door on China now will hurt goodwill and cooperation in the future
- A blanket travel ban on Chinese nationals is too radical and treats all of China as an epidemic-stricken region
- Such an attitude will only compromise cooperation with China, and turn off Chinese visitors, including overseas students unable to return to their universities in time
In response to the outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), at least 62 countries have implemented immigration restrictions to help contain the infection globally. There are some striking disparities in the scope of their restrictions.
A list by the consular department of China’s foreign affairs ministry divides these restrictions into three main categories.
Category III restrictions, which have been adopted by most countries, include border health checks and health declaration requirements, and have been introduced in Britain, Germany and France, among other countries. Instead of denying entry to Chinese nationals, screening measures such as temperature tests are conducted at the border, with symptomatic individuals isolated and individually examined.
Since then, the case fatality rate outside Hubei has not substantially risen. At the time of writing, at least 10 deaths have been reported outside Hubei, amounting to a case fatality rate of less than 0.2 per cent.
In other words, the threat posed by the novel coronavirus to regions outside Hubei appears to be lower than that of influenza in the US. The tremendous efforts of the local governments in China to contain the virus and the overwhelming cooperation of its citizens allow us to remain cautiously optimistic that the epidemic can be contained.
My previous article was meant to alleviate panic. This column is a call for calm from the governments of the world.
Within China, there are already strict measures to screen people who have lived in or travelled to Hubei. Before presenting with symptoms, all other travellers have taken the initiative to isolate themselves. Compared to China, the threat of the novel coronavirus to other nations is clearly far lower. Given the stringent screenings within China, external restrictions on the movement of Chinese nationals seem redundant.
For most countries, it would be sufficiently prudent to implement Category II measures to restrict the entry of Chinese and foreign nationals who have recently been in Hubei, and to improve infection detection measures at the border for other Chinese nationals.
In my view, the policies implemented by these countries are too radical, and treat the entire Chinese nation as an epidemic-stricken region. In the short term, these nations will have ostensibly safeguarded their security, but in the long term, they will adversely affect cooperation with China across all areas.
Travel restrictions might be necessary, but they should bar only those at substantial risk of infection (such as people who have been in Hubei), and not close the door on the whole of China.
Argentina, for example, took the initiative of extending a continued welcome to Chinese tourists. It is foreseeable that this move will win favour with Chinese people, and pave the way for fruitful exchanges between the peoples of the two nations in the future.
I believe that, through the joint efforts of China and the international community, the epidemic will be contained soon. Just as China’s economy will soon recover to scale new heights following the epidemic, the country will continue to open its doors to the world.
Chinese tourists will once again be one of the most welcome groups of guests, and academic and commercial partnerships between China and the world will become closer. The choices made by governments in the face of this emergency may very well determine their prospects for cooperation with China in the future.
Liang Jianzhang is the co-founder and executive chairman of Ctrip and a part-time professor at Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management