China’s COVID-19 policy separates Japanese families ahead of Olympics

People are given a swab for the COVID-19 test as a condition of travel at a mobile coronavirus testing facility outside a commercial office building in Beijing on December 26, 2021. (AP Photo / Andy Wong)

BEIJING (Kyodo) – As China steps up its “zero kroner” policy ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics, many Japanese workers in the capital, who have not returned to their home countries for about two decades years, have remained cut off from their families.

While urging the city’s citizens to refrain from traveling to other areas, the Beijing government has severely restricted the entry of family members accompanying Japanese employees in an effort to prevent intrusion into the new coronavirus.

Even though these families can enter China, they must be quarantined at a designated facility for 21 days upon arrival in a city other than Beijing in the country, with all direct flights between Japan and the capital suspended since March 2020. .

Health officials are totally banning people in quarantine from leaving their rooms, making families with young children, who are virtually on the lookout for playing outside, reluctant to visit China.

“In the fall, the Beijing government resumed accepting requests for letters of invitation required to accompany family members for visas. We were very happy to hear about this, ”said Shinya Tanaka, a Japanese employee of a large trading house.

“However, the process was closed immediately after the detection of infections in Beijing in October, and the invitation letters for my wife and child were ultimately not issued. I haven’t met my family for nearly two years, ”the 38-year-old said. said the man.

“Unfortunately, we became victims of the Beijing Olympics. I miss my family very much,” he added.

A 39-year-old Japanese employee for Sony Corp. in Beijing, who has been living apart from her family since January 2020, also said, “My wife has been stressed to the max because she raised two children on her own in a rental apartment in Japan for about two years.”

“I really want to invite my family to China as soon as possible, but there is no way to get a nod from the Beijing government. I think a reunion with my family will not be done at least before the end of the Beijing Olympics “scheduled for February,” he said.

As for the then 42-year-old journalist, he was authorized under certain conditions by the Chinese Foreign Ministry to bring my family to Beijing from Tokyo. We were quarantined together for the first time at a hotel in the port city of Dalian, northeast China, in mid-October.

Resident of Beijing who was forced to pass a negative certificate of a PCR test within 24 hours before entering Dalian, I headed to the city directly from the capital by express train on October 13, without returning briefly. in Japan.

On the same day, my wife and 4 year old son arrived in Dalian by plane from Narita airport near Tokyo. The three of us met for the first time in a year and seven months at the designated quarantine hotel located by the sea on the outskirts of town.

My wife said, “The hotel room we stayed in in Dalian was clean, large and comfortable. We had beautiful landscapes. The meals provided by the hotel three times a day, many of which were Japanese dishes, were delicious. My son and I enjoyed life in quarantine early on. ”

“We mostly spent time playing with toys, reading books, watching TV, and exercising in the room, but about a week into our 40s I got cranky from the stress. not being able to get out at all, ”she said. noted.

“My son also had a nervous twitch, often caused by psychological factors such as anxiety. Although he didn’t complain about his forties, he must have been feeling very stressed. Now he says he doesn’t. never wants to relive quarantine again, ”she added. .

After being forced to be isolated from the outside world for two weeks, we left Dalian for Shanghai, where people completing a 14-day quarantine in another part of China are allowed out if necessary. We stayed there for a week before entering Beijing.

Naoki Sasaki, a 43-year-old Japanese worker for an electronics manufacturer, said, “Once I hear such a story, I don’t think my family can tolerate severe quarantine in China. I want to meet my wife and sons, but I have become more reluctant to invite them to Beijing. ”

Fears are also growing that the Beijing government will extend the mandatory 21-day quarantine period, as it tried to strengthen anti-virus measures after the first infection with the Omicron variant was confirmed on the mainland in December. .

Since late October, when cases of COVID-19 spiked in Beijing after a week-long national holiday earlier this month, city officials have called on residents, including the Japanese, not to leave the capital unless necessary.

In addition, the local government has banned people in areas where new infections have been identified from entering Beijing, while requiring visitors to the city to obtain a negative certificate from a PCR test performed within 48 hours.

When the coronavirus raged in Dalian in November, all flights between the city and Beijing were temporarily suspended, preventing some of those who had already completed a 21-day quarantine from reaching the capital.

“With the global spread of the Omicron variant, authorities in Beijing will of course accelerate their efforts to curb the outbreak. In the worst case, the quarantine period could be extended,” said Kiyoshi Yamada, a 45-year-old Japanese employee. years of an automobile manufacturer.

“There is also a rumor that the Chinese government will continue with its zero corona policy until the end of the five-year Communist Party congress to be held in Beijing in the fall of 2022. I’m sick of it,” he said. -he declares.

“I think maybe my company will call me back to Japan by the end of 2022. I almost gave up inviting my family to Beijing while I was in China,” he said with a sigh.

Many Japanese workers in Beijing still live alone as family members, who were evacuated from China amid the outbreak in early 2020, have been stranded in their home countries as President Xi’s government Jinping restricted the entry of foreigners.

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