In a bid to open up international travel, China has proposed to the US mutual recognition of COVID-19 vaccines and permission of free travel between the two countries to only those persons who are vaccinated.
Chief Epidemiologist of Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Wu Zunyou said China and the US should work jointly to lift mutual travel restrictions in August or September when the US is expected to reach herd immunity, suggesting priority be given to official, business travel and overseas study.
Mr Zunyou explained his proposal to the state-run Global Times on Tuesday, saying that the free travel plan between China and the US should include mutual recognition of vaccines and limit free travel to those who are vaccinated.
Free travel should be allowed for official and business reasons and overseas study and then all types of travel should be covered, Mr Zunyou said.
This is the first-time Beijing made out a case for mutual recognition of vaccines for free travel without quarantines.
The US is likely to vaccinate around 80 per cent of its population by June and 90 per cent by August, reaching herd immunity, Zunyou said on Monday at an online forum about US-China collaboration on COVID-19 prevention and treatment organised by the Washington-based Brookings Institution and Tsinghua University in Beijing.
“If that is the case and if we could remove all political barriers, just based on science, the two countries could possibly be the first two countries to lift travel restrictions with each other,” Mr Zunyou said.
Currently, China has permitted limited flights or no flights with various countries, including India, besides cancellation of visas.
Thousands of Indian students enrolled to Chinese universities and a number of Indians working in China are stuck in India due to travel restrictions by China.
Those who are arriving by flights through third countries need to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine and another seven days if they want to travel to Beijing.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recognised US-based Pfizer and Moderna vaccines besides UK-based AstraZeneca jabs. However, the WHO is yet to ratify five of the Chinese vaccines currently authorised by Beijing for emergency use.
Observers are optimistic about borders opening up for international travel as the COVID-19 immunisation drive gains momentum across the world.
The US is the worst affected nation by the coronavirus with 514,660 related fatalities and over 28 million confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins University.
In China, COVID-19 has claimed 4,836 lives with more than 100,000 confirmed cases, the coronavirus resources said.