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Malaysia, Thailand on edge after tourists from Covid-hit China begin to arrive 

New Year fireworks display in Bangkok, Thailand (Photo: Xinhua/Wang Teng/IANS)

With China all set to open up its borders and allow its nationals to travel, there is concern in some South-East Asian countries that Chinese travelers may lead to a spread of the virus and impact their economic recovery.

The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reports that the Malaysian social media is worried over the return of Chinese tourists particularly for the Lunar New Year, which may revive the Covid-19 infections. China is currently battling the spread of the virus with news of widespread deaths and mutation of new strains of the deadly virus.

Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand are major tourism destinations for Chinese travelers and provide direct flights. Tour operator Justin Lee wrote on Facebook: “We have enough to eat now and there is no need to rush to take risks. If it [Chinese tourists’ return] causes us to return to lockdown, who will be responsible?”

Malaysia’s health ministry has been keeping tabs on the resurgence of the virus in China but has not as yet made clear if the Chinese tourists will be subjected to negative PCR tests.

Meanwhile, Thailand too is anxious as it expects nearly 10 million Chinese tourists to come back, sparking major fears about a surge in sick and unvaccinated travelers.

However, the authorities seem to be keen on reviving their tourism industry. Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul told reporters that the Thai public should not be worried about the expected influx of visitors.

Thailand is depending on health insurance as well as providing booster shots to Chinese tourists as its line of defence.

Countries across the world are concerned that the covid surge in China, coupled with emergence of new strains, may again cause the virus to surge. Governments are worried because they find that Chinese data is unreliable and opaque.