Isabella Tang paid a hefty sum to return home for the holidays.
She spent around $6,000 in total for air tickets between Los Angeles and Guangzhou, PCR tests, and eight days of quarantine. Tang said she had no qualms about it, considering she was visiting her parents, both in their late 40s, and protecting them from COVID potentially being passed on.
But as the coronavirus spread through China since the country dismantled most of its virus control policies earlier this month, her parents tested positive for the virus just a day before she was to leave her quarantine Wednesday.
“I’m now confused,” Tang, a student at a U.S. university, told Sixth Tone. “What’s the point of quarantine and PCR tests if we’re going back to a family full of positive cases? I’ve been in the United States for the past nine months and haven’t gotten infected despite a higher caseload. Now this?”
Changsha, home to about eight million residents, like other cities in China, is experiencing a surge in infections unlike anytime before. The sudden relaxation of some rules, including mass testing and lockdowns, without much preparation has brought life to a standstill in many places — it’s overstretching logistics, straining hospitals, and there’s not even a sufficient supply of fever and cold medicines.
Though pandemic controls have loosened, China still requires travelers from overseas to do a pre-boarding PCR test and quarantine for five days at a government-designated facility, as well as three more days of at-home isolation. On Thursday, news outlet Bloomberg reported that the country was planning to scrap quarantine for international arrivals starting January, though there has been no official confirmation.
Social media posts suggest that the southwestern city of Chengdu was already implementing its own rules for inbound travelers, with several users on Xiaohongshu saying that they only had to undergo a two-day hotel quarantine and three days of home isolation. The government hasn’t formally announced the rule, and a member of staff at Chengdu’s Shuangliu International Airport told Sixth Tone on Friday that they were still implementing measures from the official playbook.
On Xiaohongshu, hundreds of people who had just landed in China and were in quarantine seemed confused about their plans after being released. Many said their family members had already tested positive for the coronavirus.
“Where should I go after quarantine?” asked many, becoming one of the most pressing questions on the platform.
As for Tang, she said she’s not too concerned anymore. She’s home with her parents and hasn’t developed any symptoms or gotten tested.
“I don’t care if I get infected or not to be honest. My PCR test result won’t affect reentering the U.S.,” said Tang. “I just felt the whole situation was hilarious. The fact that I can so easily treat this as a dark comedy and make fun of it is terrifying.”
Editor: Bibek Bhandari.
(Header image: The corridor of a quarantine hotel for international travelers in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, Nov. 10, 2022. VCG)