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Residents pose for selfies outside a popular bakery in Beijing, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022. China says it will resume issuing passports for tourism in another big step away from anti-virus controls that isolated the country for almost three years, setting up a potential flood of Chinese going abroad for next month's Lunar New Year holiday. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan) Image Credit: AP

Manila: The Philippines’ Department of Health doesn’t see a need yet to close borders or impose tighter Covid restrictions on inbound Chinese travelers, the agency’s officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said.

The agency is confident that existing health protocols are sufficient, Vergeire said at a briefing Thursday. “We can’t just have closures, then open it, then close it again. We are moving forward,” she said.

Manila's decision comes amid a growing number of countries, including the US and Japan, announcing plans to impose restrictions on visitors from China after Beijing abruptly removed a major impediment to overseas travel despite surging Covid cases at home.

China ends mandatory quarantine

On Monday, the country said it would bring an end to mandatory quarantine on arrival - prompting many jubilant Chinese citizens to make plans to travel abroad.

In response, the United States and a number of other countries announced they would require negative Covid tests for all travellers from mainland China.

“The recent rapid increase in Covid-19 transmission in China increases the potential for new variants emerging,” a senior US health official told reporters in a phone briefing.

Limited data

Beijing has provided only limited data about circulating variants in China to global databases, the official said, and its testing and reporting on new cases has also diminished.

The US move came after Italy, Japan, India and Malaysia announced their own measures in a bid to protect against importing new Covid variants from China.

Beijing has hit out against “hyping, smearing and political manipulation” by the Western media concerning its Covid response.

“Currently China’s epidemic situation is all predictable and under control,” foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a briefing Wednesday.

China still does not allow foreign visitors, however, with the issuance of visas for overseas tourists and students still suspended.

But the lifting of mandatory quarantines sparked a surge in interest in overseas travel by Chinese citizens, who have been largely confined to their country since Beijing pulled down the drawbridge in March 2020.

Italy Wednesday said it would make coronavirus tests for all visitors from China mandatory.

The measure was “essential to ensure the surveillance and identification of any variants of the virus in order to protect the Italian population”, health minister Orazio Schillaci said.

France’s president, too, said it had “requested appropriate measures to protect” its citizens, with Paris noting it was closely monitoring “the evolution of the situation in China”.

The European Commission is set to meet Thursday to discuss “possible measures for a coordinated approach” by EU states to the explosion of Covid cases in China.