Cut off from home, Chinese diaspora frustrated by zero COVID policy

SINGAPORE, April 29 (Reuters) – Beijing’s zero COVID strategy has had dire consequences for the millions of Chinese living abroad, most of whom have been unable to see family and friends back home for two years while even as the rest of the world eases travel restrictions.

Some cannot afford the exorbitant cost of flights and others fear they will be stuck in a severe lockdown upon arrival. All are concerned for the well-being of their loved ones back in China.

Ba Lina, a London-based marketing manager, is racked with guilt over not being able to see her aging parents.

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“I feel helpless and angry, I haven’t been able to see my family for years,” she said.

Reuters spoke to a dozen Chinese nationals in New York, London, Sydney and Singapore about their frustration at being separated from their families in China.

For starters, prices for international flights to China have skyrocketed. A one-way ticket within the next six months from Singapore to Guangzhou costs about 80,000 yuan ($12,088.43) due to the limited number of flights with only business class seats available. Before the pandemic, the same economy class trip cost less than $370.

Li Wenqi booked a flight from London to China in early 2021 after earning a master’s degree in finance from a British university. But he said the flight had been suspended several times and was asked to top up the fare for an “exorbitant” amount before he could fly.

“I gave up, I’m just going to stay in London. It will be even harder for me to find a job in China given the lockdown situation there,” said Li, who now works as a waiter in London.

Those lucky enough to return to their home countries are locked down upon arrival under some of the toughest restrictions the world has ever seen during the pandemic.

In Shanghai, the epicenter of China’s coronavirus outbreak, some residents have complained of being forcibly evicted from their homes and bussed to makeshift quarantine centers under the country’s strict lockdown measures. the city.

Tony Zeng, a permanent residency holder in Singapore who found himself stranded on a visit to China this year, said he was considering changing his nationality.

“After seeing the Chinese government’s inefficiency in handling COVID and the heavy censorship of COVID-related information that is not in favor of the government, I prefer to stay in Singapore now, and maybe consider converting citizenship more late,” he said.

Bingqin Li, professor of social policy and governance at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, said China’s strict lockdowns were undermining trust in government.

“Lockdowns and chaos affect people’s level of trust in government…the longer the turning point is delayed, the more (trust in government) will be affected and the longer it will take to recover,” she said. declared.

Of course, overseas Chinese can always come back if they are determined.

Travelers from Singapore, for example, must take a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test seven days before departure, a PCR test and an IgM antibody blood test two days before departure, and another test PCR 12 hours before the flight. .

They must then request a “sanitary code” with their mobile phone by downloading the certifications. A rapid antigen test (ART) six hours before departure is also required, before you can finally board the plane.

Only those who have had a Chinese vaccine are eligible for IgM antibody blood test waivers. These requirements may vary slightly from country to country.

Upon arrival in China, travelers must quarantine at a designated hotel for 14 to 28 days depending on the city, followed by additional days of home quarantine.

China’s Foreign Ministry said China’s COVID measures were designed to protect people, including from imported cases.

The National Immigration Administration has said “strict and tight” border controls are needed as COVID-19 continues to spread across the world.

“I can understand why it’s so strict when the Chinese population is huge, but it’s very painful to bear,” said Xiang Xiaoxue, a Chinese living in Singapore.

($1 = 6.6179 Chinese yuan renminbi)

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Reporting by Chen Lin in Singapore; Editing by Stephen Coates

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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