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Richmond residents 'relieved' by new COVID pre-entry rules for Chinese travellers

Air travellers from mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau flying to Canada will need to present a negative COVID-19 test starting Jan. 5.
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20211215 - Vancouver, BC Chung Chow photo For Glen Gorstrom YVR travel for Xmas COVID testing at international arrival lobby.

Richmond residents have expressed their “relief” to a Richmond city councillor, as the federal government’s new travel restrictions for people coming from China kick in.

As of today, air travellers two years and older from China, Macau and Hong Kong will need to present, on entry to Canada, a negative COVID-19 test two days before their departure date.

When the news of the impending restrictions broke earlier this week, Coun. Chak Au was contacted by multiple Richmond residents, who had been concerned about the “lack of screening for travellers” from the aforementioned areas.

“The (new federal) announcement has made people feel more relief,” said Au.

“They were concerned because we don’t know what we are letting into Canada with new variants of the virus in these Asian areas.”

The pre-entry tests can be either a PCR or antigen test with documentation that shows the test was done while being monitored by a telehealth service, an accredited laboratory or testing provider, according to the Government of Canada.

So far, Au has not received any negative feedback on the federal government’s latest travel requirement.

However, the Chinese government is unhappy that Canada and other countries are creating new COVID-19 restrictions for people flying from China.

At a press conference held in Beijing on Tuesday, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said some rules are based on politics instead of science, but she did not reference Canada specifically.

"Some of these measures are disproportionate and simply unacceptable," reads an official English transcript of Mao's remarks.

"We firmly reject using COVID measures for political purposes and will take corresponding measures in response."

Mao added that COVID-19 response measures “need to be science-based and proportionate.”

“They should not be used for political manipulation, there should not be discriminatory measures against certain countries," Mao said, adding that variants can emerge anywhere.

Au told the Richmond News he couldn’t fathom what further “pushback” China would implement as the country already has COVID-19 restrictions in place for travellers entering the country.

China currently requires a negative COVID-19 test for all travellers entering the country while Canada’s pre-screening policy only applies to people arriving from flights originating from mainland China, Hong Kong or Macau.

“Why is the Canadian pre-screening unfair? China is regarded as a high-risk area right now, while Canada is considered a low-risk region. That’s something I don’t understand,” said Au.

However, Au didn’t disregard the idea that people from Chinese communities are concerned the temporary testing policy may set them up for discrimination and bias.

“I hope people can make the distinction between what is happening in China and what is happening to the people of our local Chinese community,” he said.

Au highlighted the Richmond community being one of the first cities to adopt wearing masks and social distancing in response to the initial virus outbreak almost three years ago.

“I understand pre-screening cannot contain the spread of the variant, but we can prevent it from further spreading,” said Au.

“In due time, when China’s COVID-19 case rates are not as high, we can then re-evaluate these travel requirements and drop them.”

-with files from the Canadian Press