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World Scrambles on China COVID-19 Travel Policies

China has called new policies “excessive” and threatened retaliation.

By , a global affairs journalist and the author of The Influence of Soros and Bad Jews.
A woman arrives on a flight from Shanghai.
A woman arrives on a flight from Shanghai.
A woman arrives on a flight from Shanghai at Heathrow Airport in London on Dec. 29, 2022. Carl Court/Getty Images

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at international responses to COVID-19 and China’s reopening, criticism of Israel’s national security minister, and a link between climate change and domestic violence.

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China Hits Back at COVID-19 Travel Restrictions

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at international responses to COVID-19 and China’s reopening, criticism of Israel’s national security minister, and a link between climate change and domestic violence.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


China Hits Back at COVID-19 Travel Restrictions

China has criticized other countries’ COVID-19 travel restrictions, calling them “excessive,” after several countries said they would require negative COVID-19 tests from Chinese travelers.

“We believe that the entry restrictions adopted by some countries targeting China lack scientific basis, and some excessive practices are even more unacceptable,” said Mao Ning, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson. “We are firmly opposed to attempts to manipulate the COVID measures for political purposes and will take countermeasures based on the principle of reciprocity.”

The comments come as countries around the world grapple with how to handle China’s reopening and reversal on its zero-COVID approach. China is reopening, but low vaccination rates and concerns regarding the effectiveness of China’s COVID-19 vaccines—combined with an outbreak of COVID-19 cases in the country—have led some countries to require Chinese travelers to have a negative COVID-19 test.

This week, Canada and Australia announced that they would be requiring such tests. France did the same and encouraged the European Union as a whole to do so too. The United States also recently imposed a requirement. Countries vary in their approaches. Some, like the United States, say a negative test will be required to fly into the United States from China. Italy and Japan, by comparison, will require passengers arriving from China to test on arrival.

The United Kingdom, which said it is still working out the details of its policy, also said Tuesday that those who tested positive for COVID-19 on arrival would not be required to quarantine. British Transport Secretary Mark Harper said, “What we are doing is we are collecting that information for surveillance purposes.” Harper was critical of COVID-19 restrictions during the pandemic.

“This is about a country, China, which isn’t sharing the health data with the global health system that we expect everybody to do,” Harper added. “That is why we have put this temporary precautionary measure in place as China opens up its borders.” British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesperson said the country is attempting to strike the appropriate balance between acknowledging the fact that an estimated 1 in 45 people in the United Kingdom are currently infected with COVID-19 and the potential of new variants.


What We’re Following Today 

Palestinians lambast Israeli national security minister. Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israel’s new national security minister, visited a holy site in Jerusalem on Tuesday, attracting criticism from more than one corner. Ben-Gvir went to Temple Mount, which is also the site of the al-Aqsa mosque, becoming the first Jewish minister to do so in five years. The Palestinian Authority called the visit to the third-holiest site in Islam an “unprecedented provocation,” and Jordan summoned its Israeli ambassador for a reprimand over Ben-Gvir’s visit.

Ben-Gvir was also censured by Israeli Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef. “As a minister representing the government of Israel you should be acting according to Chief Rabbinate instructions, which have long forbidden visiting the Temple Mount,” Yosef wrote in a letter to the national security minister. Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism, and it is the position of the chief rabbinate that the site is “too holy for Jews to set foot on.”

Domestic violence connected to climate change. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change identified a link in its 2022 report that tied climate change (specifically extreme weather, which climate change makes more common) and domestic violence. The report pointed to increasing evidence that extreme weather events drive domestic violence, meaning that climate change is, in addition to an environmental and economic issue, a matter of gender equality.

Terry McGovern, who leads the department of population and family health at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, told the Washington Post that the connection between climate change and domestic violence as “overwhelming.”


Keep an Eye On

Zelensky warns of long Russian drone strike campaign. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukrainian intelligence had reason to believe that Moscow would continue attacking with Iranian-made drones and that it was Russia’s plan to try to “exhaust” Ukraine. Zelensky said so far this year—that is, the days-old year of 2023—Ukrainian air defenses have shot down more than 80 such drones.

More fallout from the Mexican prison break. At least two investigators charged with finding the escapees from a north Mexican jail were shot and killed by gunmen. Authorities now believe at least 30 prisoners escaped during Sunday’s prison break in Ciudad Juárez. Los Mexicles, a gang that has been linked to the Sinaloa cartel, is presently believed to be responsible for the violence.


Tuesday’s Most Read

• The Myth of America’s Ukraine Fatigue by Raphael S. Cohen and Gian Gentile

Elections to Watch in 2023 by Allison Meakem

10 Conflicts to Watch in 2023 by Comfort Ero and Richard Atwood


Odds and Ends 

Gianni Infantino, president of FIFA, told local reporters in Brazil that the organization will ask every country in the world to name a stadium after late soccer star Pelé.

Emily Tamkin is a global affairs journalist and the author of The Influence of Soros and Bad Jews. Twitter: @emilyctamkin

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