US smears China's effective 'circuit breaker' flight policy despite own unbridled infections
Global Times

Ground service staff spray disinfectant through an aircraft cabin at Hefei Xinqiao International Airport, East China's Anhui Province on January 23, 2021. Photo:VCG

Ground service staff spray disinfectant through an aircraft cabin at Hefei Xinqiao International Airport, East China's Anhui Province on January 23, 2021. (Photo:VCG)

The Biden administration's criticism of China's decision to cancel flights from the US to China due to passengers who tested positive for coronavirus is groundless, as countries should prioritize COVID-19 prevention in the face of the pandemic, said industry insiders, noting that Washington will only have to blame its own unbridled infection if it insists on finding a culprit.

Experts pointed out that using such an excuse to attack China is Washington's attempt to intensify criticism of China's COVID-19 prevention policies, when the West launched another torrent of smears on China's dynamic zero-COVID policy ahead of the Beijing 2022 Olympic Games.

"China's actions are inconsistent with its obligations under the US-China Air Transport Agreement. We are engaging with the (Chinese government) on this and we retain the right to take regulatory measures as appropriate," the US Transportation Department (USDOT) was quoted by Reuters as saying.

The USDOT's criticism came after the Civil Aviation Administration of China on Wednesday ordered the suspension of six more US-to-China flights in the coming weeks after a surge in passengers testing positive for COVID-19.

According to the CAAC policy updated in April 2021, if the number of passengers testing positive reaches five, the airline's flights will be suspended for two weeks. The suspension will last for four weeks if the number of passengers testing positive reaches 10. China has cancelled 142 inbound flights from foreign countries including the US, France, Canada and the Netherlands since January 6 this year.

Criticism from the Biden administration is unreasonable, as it cited the US-China Air Transport Agreement, a clause that works in normal times, to criticize policies implemented during special times of dealing with the pandemic, Qi Qi, an industry watcher, told the Global Times on Thursday.

China's "circuit breaker" policy on inbound COVID-19 cases is equal to each carrier, including Chinese carriers, Qi said.

There may be financial losses for a single airline, but Chinese airlines also suffer. Each country is making its epidemic prevention measures based on its own conditions, and the policy is not meant for any specific country, he noted.

Airlines for America, a trade group representing United, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and others, said US carriers are in "communication with the US and Chinese governments to identify a path forward that minimizes the impact to travelers, Reuters reported.

The surge of Omicron, a more contagious variant of the coronavirus, brought a US record of new COVID-19 cases since it made inroads in the US in December 2021. The country reported 1.13 million new cases in a single day on January 10.

The "circuit breaker" policy remains consistent, as Omicron pushed up infection cases all over the world. It is normal that more flights were cancelled because the number of passengers testing positive rose, a Beijing-based immunologist told the Global Times.

He noted that the US only has itself to blame for the canceled flights to China, which is a result of the former's inability to handle its outbreak.

The Chinese embassy in the US adjusted entry policies into China on January 4 to cope with the surging number of infections in the US. It said that travelers coming from the US will be required to present at least two negative tests from different designated testing agencies, and monitor their health for seven days in their departure city before flying to China.

The squabble between Beijing and Washington over airlines started at the beginning of the pandemic. In August 2021, Reuters reported that the US Transportation Department said it would limit some flights from Chinese carriers to 40 percent passenger capacity for four weeks after the Chinese government imposed similar limits on four United Airlines flights

Hua Chunying, spokeswoman for China's Foreign Ministry, said the US has no ground to limit inbound air passenger capacity on Chinese carriers.

China's "circuit breaker" policy treats all airlines fairly, including domestic carriers, said Hua, adding that China will continue with its epidemic control policies to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

The US intention of starting the old argument is clear, that is, to intensify its smear of China's COVID-19 prevention policy ahead of the Beijing 2022 Olympic Games, Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations of China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times.

However, this "petty move," as well as other tricks made by the US, cannot deter the influence of the Beijing Winter Olympics, nor can it hold back China from successfully hosting this event, Li said.

Foreign media launched waves of attacks on China's virus prevention policies, including citing rumors that Beijing is going to impose a lockdown during the Olympics. An official from the Beijing Organizing Committee for the event said it was untrue.