Countries around the world, including Japan and Thailand, are stepping up measures to shield their populations from the Covid-19 outbreak in China that comes as a more transmissible variant of the virus boosts infections globally. Japan further tightened border controls for travellers from mainland China on Sunday, requiring proof of testing negative for Covid-19 amid a surge of cases in the neighbouring country. The restrictions, which require the test be taken within 72 hours before departure, have been implemented to halt the spread of highly transmittable strains of the coronavirus. But they are not mandatory for those flying in from Hong Kong or Macau. All travellers from mainland China and those who have visited the country within seven days are now required to take a PCR or high-quality antigen test upon arrival in Japan. Those who test positive for Covid-19 upon arrival must quarantine for seven days if they are exhibiting symptoms or five days if they are asymptomatic. The government will continue to restrict departures and arrivals of direct flights connecting Japan with mainland China to four airports – Narita, Haneda, Kansai and Chubu. While all airports in the country will become open to direct flights from Hong Kong and Macau due to a reduction in coronavirus cases in the two cities, airline operators have been requested not to increase the number of flights. Arrivals from Hong Kong and Macau were previously restricted to the four Japanese airports, as well as New Chitose near Sapporo, Fukuoka and Naha airports, provided that none of the passengers had visited mainland China in the past seven days. Places with Covid rules for China travellers Thailand, bracing for a wave of Chinese tourists, will reintroduce entry requirements for foreigners arriving by aeroplane from Monday, the nation’s transport minister said. The response comes as China tackles a surge in virus cases triggered by the dismantling of its strict zero-Covid restrictions in recent weeks. At the same time, the emergence of a highly transmissible variant – already on track to become the dominant strain in the US – is fanning concerns over new mutations. Starting in December, China began significantly easing its strict antivirus measures, including no longer restricting outings, and also stopped counting the exact number of patients. On Sunday, China reopened borders and abandoned quarantine measures, fully departing from its strict “zero-Covid” policy that involved lockdowns and isolation measures at designated facilities. Japan greatly relaxed its border restrictions in October, allowing travellers to skip Covid-19 testing upon arrival provided they show proof of having undergone at least three vaccinations or a negative Covid test within 72 hours of departure. Other countries have also stepped up border controls for travellers from China. In Thailand, adults must show proof of at least two vaccinations or recovery from the virus since July, according to Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob. Unvaccinated visitors will need a medical report justifying their lack of inoculations, said a statement from the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand. The rules apply until January 31. Thailand expects 300,000 Chinese visitors in the first quarter of this year, after it reached a target of 10 million foreign arrivals last year in a better-than-expected recovery of its vital tourism sector. Airlines are required to screen visitors’ eligibility to enter Thailand under the reimposed rules, while people suspected of displaying symptoms of Covid will be advised to get tested on arrival. Passengers transiting to other destinations are exempt, the statement said. Portugal has joined the roster of European nations that will require a negative Covid-19 test for passengers from China, while Germany is discouraging all non-essential travel to the country. So far there have not been significant differences in severity identified between Covid cases caused by the new XBB. 1.5 and those from other variants. The World Health Organization is planning an updated assessment on its risks in the coming days. China’s pointless zero-Covid policy will puzzle historians for years to come China has yet to report any domestic cases of the variant that has been found in at least 28 other nations. South Africa was among the latest to join the list. In Europe, countries including Belgium, Sweden and the UK have announced new requirements on travellers from China. The European Union on Wednesday “strongly encouraged” members to adopt pre-departure Covid testing, recommended masking on flights and urged waste water checks. Portugal’s testing requirement will take effect from Sunday. In addition, passengers and crew travelling to and from China must use a face mask during the flight, and Lisbon’s airport will undertake waste water monitoring to identify the virus and carry out genomic sequencing. Among nations that recently reimposed Covid entry rules, India introduced mandatory tests this month for fliers from mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Thailand.