COVID-19 containment loophole: flee China via other countries

As many colleges and universities are starting their new semester, it is extremely difficult for many Chinese to continue their study abroad due to travel interruptions and restrictions caused by the COVID-19 epidemic. So some choose to go to a third country before arriving at their destinations as a workaround.

But this poses a threat to the global effort of containing COVID-19, because there can be asymptomatic people still traveling around the world to further spread the virus.

According to Qunar.com, the number of international students going to Australia via transit in Thailand alone has increased by 237 times over the same period last year.

This is mainly because of a travel ban on flights coming from China imposed by Australia on February 1. It was estimated that more than 100,000 international (Chinese) students are stranded in China.

In order to return to schools in Australia, many international (Chinese) students have begun to try the method of “return to Australia after 14 days in a third country”, so Thailand, Malaysia and Japan, which have relatively loose restrictions on Chinese entry, have become popular transit destinations.

Among them, Thailand has become the country with the highest growth in transit with its relaxed visa policy and lower airfares. At present, Thailand has no restrictions on entry from any Chinese city. It has only strengthened the fever checks of Chinese tourists and carried out isolation and treatment of passengers with fever.

According to Qunar.com, the number of students aged 16-24 transferring to Australia via a third country has increased by 97% compared with the same period last year within the past month. The number of people traveling from Thailand to Australia surged 237 times compared with the same period last year. Malaysia and Japan followed closely, increasing by 12.9 times and 6.14 times respectively.

Against the background of a sharp decline in outbound travel during the Spring Festival holiday this year, the group of international students has become the main force of outbound “tourists”, and the number of outbound tourists is almost the same as last year.

Data from Qunar.com shows that in the past month, the number of departures has dropped by nearly 40% compared with last year. Among them, the number of people going to Thailand has decreased by 32%, the number of people going to Malaysia has decreased by 45%, and the number of people going to Japan has decreased by 41%. The number of overseas students aged 16-24 dropped by only 1% compared with the same period last year.

In fact, not only Australia, but also Chinese students studying in other countries around the world, have been affected by the epidemic. Transferring to a third country and back to school has become the choice of many international students.

Data from Qunar.com shows that in addition to neighboring countries such as Thailand and Japan, the number of people who have recently traveled to the UAE has also increased significantly. Among them, the number of people going out through Dubai has increased by 57% compared with last year, and the number of students aged 16-24 has nearly doubled.

Specifically, international students going to Europe tend to transit from the UAE, Japan, and Thailand. Among them, international students going to the United Kingdom via Japan have increased by 1.67 times compared with the same period last year, and transit by Thailand has increased by 7 times. For international students studying in France, the UAE has become their Favorite transit place. At present, the UAE’s entry policy for China is to suspend all Chinese routes except Beijing.

In North America, the number of international students transiting through Thailand to the United States increased by 29.5 times, and the number of international students transiting through Japan increased by 1.7 times; the number of international students traveling to Canada through Japan increased by 7 times, and the number of international students traveling to Canada through Singapore increased by three times.

At present, the US’s entry restriction policy is that foreigners who have visited China in the past 14 days (except for immediate family members of US citizens and permanent residents) will be temporarily barred from entering. Therefore, many international students choose to stay in Thailand or Japan for 14 days before going to the United States.

The choice of transit is not only related to the restrictive policies of various countries, but also to the skyrocketing of direct flight tickets after the cancellation or suspension of many international routes. For example, a direct flight from Shanghai to Vancouver, Canada is twice as expensive as a transit from Japan.

Data Source: Chinese Website

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Feb. 28, 2020