Beijing may refuse entry to Taiwanese visitors with 'Wuhan coronavirus' on their test results, Air China says

Chinese workers stand in front of an Air China Boeing B737 aircraft at Beijing Airport on March 23, 2005.
PHOTO: South China Morning Post

Taiwanese visitors to mainland China could face problems if their Covid-19 test certificates carry the words “Wuhan coronavirus”, according to flag carrier Air China.

“Regarding passengers who are taking cross-strait flights and need to provide a Covid-19 negative polymerase chain reaction certificate issued within 72 hours, they are reminded to provide the certificates that bear the official term ‘Covid-19’ or ‘novel coronavirus’,” the company said in a notice to Taiwanese travel agents on Wednesday.

“If their certificates carry the words ‘Wuhan coronavirus’ they will be deemed void,” Air China said, adding that any missing or invalid paperwork could result in passengers being refused entry on arrival.

An Air China official, who declined to be named, said in an interview that “novel coronavirus” and “Covid-19” were acceptable terms for the pathogen and the disease it causes, as used by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

If a passenger’s test result papers failed to use the correct terminology it “Could result in the deprival of the rights of entry”, she said.

Wuhan is the central China city in which the coronavirus was first identified at the end of last year, but Beijing has sought to prevent its name becoming indelibly linked to the pathogen.

Another of China’s airlines, China Southern, published a similar warning to passengers on its Taiwan-based website on Thursday. All customers should use the official name for Covid-19 on their test results, it said.

Under current rules, people travelling to mainland China from Taiwan can be denied boarding if they are unable to provide a certificate showing they have tested negative for the coronavirus within the past 72 hours.

The term “Wuhan coronavirus” is frequently used in Taiwan, even by government officials and medical institutions that carry out Covid-19 tests.

When Taiwan’s Health Minister Chen Shih-chung was asked earlier in the year why Taiwan kept using the phrase, even after the WHO had started using Covid-19, he replied: “It is where the virus originated, so it makes it easy to remember.”

Taiwan has been widely praised for its handling of the coronavirus. Since the start of the health crisis, the island of about 24 million people has reported just 759 cases and seven deaths. It has not reported a local infection since April.

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This first article was first published in South China Morning Post.