Singaporeans on China’s New Covid-19 ApproachLast month, China abruptly announced and rolled out new steps to reverse strict, zero-COVID policies that have been in place since the beginning of the pandemic. Violations of COVID-19 rules have been decriminalised, and borders have reopened. Testing and quarantine entry requirements have also been relaxed for inbound and outbound travellers from China.
While Chinese citizens have begun to eagerly plan overseas travel, and various industries anticipate economic boosts, others worry about an inevitable surge in COVID cases and the lack of infrastructure within China to deal with that surge. Concerns have also been raised about new variants emerging and possibly impacting other countries as Chinese citizens begin to travel in higher numbers. In a press conference last week, China’s National Health Commission (NHC) released death statistics for the first time since the end of zero-COVID policies. According to NHC, 59,538 deaths were recorded in China between 8 December 2022 and 12 January 2023.
Given uncertainties over the COVID situation in China – particularly as Chinese New Year approaches – concerns have been raised about the risks involving China residents travelling internationally. Countries such as the United States, Japan, South Korea and Malaysia have announced stricter testing and quarantining measures for Chinese travellers wishing to enter.
In Singapore entry requirements remain unchanged for incoming travellers from China. As of the last statement from the Ministry of Health, the agency is “watching the situation closely” leaving open the possible options to “reinstate border health measures for selected countries if warranted by the public health situation.” On the other hand, local industries have begun anticipating tourists and potential business opportunities.
How do Singaporeans feel about China’s new COVID approach? What considerations or anxieties are most on local minds? Do Singaporeans believe that it will be a nett positive or negative? We asked 110 Singaporeans for their thoughts.
When asked a broad question about their feelings about China reversing its strict, zero-COVID policies, respondents were split – with a significant portion feeling Unsure.While the first question showed mixed and uncertain responses, a more specific question about Chinese residents entering Singapore reflected more consensus, with 64% feeling negative or somewhat negative. A majority of respondents indicated that they would not consider travelling to China for either business or pleasure, while a similar majority also felt that Singapore should implement stricter restrictions on Chinese residents entering Singapore.In the final two questions, respondents were asked to rank different potential impacts of China’s shifting policy – globally and in Singapore-specific contexts – according to significance.When considering broad, international impacts, new COVID-19 variants spreading internationally was the top concern, ranked 1st by 39% of respondents and 2nd by 38% of respondents.
Labour shortages causing global supply chain disruption was most frequently ranked at the bottom, with over 78% ranking it either 3rd or 4th. Interestingly although the possible Economic Boost for industry and global economy was ranked second to last on average, 19% of respondents did rank it 1st.When presented with issues within a local context, respondent rankings reflected more concern over how COVID-19 might impact daily lives and loosening measures. This was followed by concerns over hospital capacity and Singapore’s healthcare system. The two options that focused on economic boosts and local industries such as tourism were ranked equal last on average.
On one hand, this ranking tracks with the earlier concern over Chinese residents entering Singaporean without specific restrictions, and the generally negative response to Chinese residents travelling internationally. However, the close average ranking of the different options suggests that, along with the split responses from the first question, multiple impacts – both positive and negative – concern Singaporeans at the same time. The world continues to watch China, and updates from inside and outside China remain prominent in the news cycle. Singaporeans and Singapore will undoubtably begin to see the impacts of China’s COVID-19 policies in the coming months.
This short survey suggests that Singaporeans are aware of and have a range of views on the potential impacts on Singapore – with particular wariness about disruptions to Singapore’s own COVID-19 landscape and recovery. Possible economic impacts and boosts also seem prominent in the minds of some Singaporeans.