Provided by Tom Ulmet on May 26, 2020.
Welcome Back to Hong Kong Schools!
Now that Hong Kong campuses have reopened, all ACAMIS member campuses should be reopened except for a few in provinces with special conditions. Mongolia schools and borders remain closed until further notice. Having students back with us is a meaningful assurance to the international communities we serve.
Are you as Head leaving at the end of this year? Each year about 15% of our 77 Heads choose to move on to other opportunities. If you know you will be leaving, kindly inform us as soon as possible and indicate the name and school email address of your replacement. This will enable us to extend a warm welcome to your successor.
Important Latest News!
Some of you may have been informed of the following article that appeared on May 21 in “The Beijinger.” The article indicated that flight restrictions may continue on until October. We have done some searching to discover how this works. Much can happen during the summer, so bear in mind that this information could change at any time, but, as with my previous messages, it is best to take precautions in order to be prepared for what may become true. If you are pressed for time, it may be best to read the Conclusions and Summary and then work backwards for the detailed explanations when you have time.
Presently the ban on foreigners entering China remains in place, but we are hopeful the full ban will be removed during or at the end of the summer. Quarantines will no doubt remain in place for arrivals, but this is not the same thing as continuing the ban on foreigners entering China. The “Beijinger” article helps to define the government policy moving forward. By any health standard, China has done an incredible job in the three major needs during an epidemic, Test, Track, and Isolate.
Three Dangers to the World
The fast implementation of testing, tracking and isolation is why, after only a few months, there has been containment of the spread of the virus within China. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for other major countries where the spread continues to grow in the absence of any of these basic concepts to stop the spread. The three main reasons why the virus may recycle and make a second or third pass shed some light on the road ahead.
1. The largest threats to themselves and the rest of the world are now the USA, Russia, parts of Europe, and Brazil where testing is inadequate, where there is little tracking and isolation is difficult to enforce. Clusters are now spreading out from the major population centers into rural areas where there are fewer medical facilities.
2. The major spread in Brazil is particularly troublesome because it is a significant outbreak in summertime in the southern hemisphere which dispels the theory that the virus may disappear when summer comes to the northern hemisphere. There are several success stories in the southern hemisphere and the most successful has been New Zealand where stringent controls were immediately put in place to test, track and isolate and this has resulted in containment. However, it is increasingly likely that if the virus is not contained in the southern hemisphere when winter comes, the virus will spread and recycle to the north at the end of the northern summer.
3. While many countries have enacted flight bans from highly infected countries, this alone is inadequate. The US has such bans but has no controls or screening/testing/quarantines in place for arriving infected passengers, some of whom are asymptomatic. China’s strong screening and quarantine of every arriving passenger seems harsh, but it works. Even among the limited number of inbound flights to designated arrival cities with quarantine hotels in place, about 10 new cases are detected each week on limited flight arrivals. This is a small number, right? The problem is the extreme volatility of this virus. Last week in the USA, in one hair salon, an asymptomatic worker infected 91 other people in four days and, minimally, they infected their families so 1 infected person rapidly became +400. Despite new social distancing requirements on aircraft, the same risk of spread occurs during long haul flights.
The above important points dictate that international travel restrictions will be in place in China, Hong Kong and other parts of the world into the autumn months when many thousands of foreigners and their families want to return to their companies abroad along with new arrivals who want to take up their employment offers. Nine airports in China have been designated as official entry points for inbound international flights as long as needed.
Current China Entry Airports
Backlog of Foreign Arrivals
Click here for the official announcement of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) in Chinese along with a translation provided by an unknown person on Baidu. The Chinese version actually is easier to read and makes more sense. Here is a synopsis.
First, it is important to know that the CAAC cannot set dates for the removal of a ban on foreign arrivals. Having been given a directive by the government, the CAAC tried to devise a system for allowing the gradual arrival of foreigners once the ban is lifted. The strict quarantine provisions on all arriving passengers were put in place and the foreigner ban was implemented on March 28 as a temporary measure to allow the reentry first of several million Chinese citizens who were traveling outside of China and needed to return. Then, when universities abroad closed, processing over 240,000 students who were studying abroad, many in hot spots, became a priority. A larger number than expected tested positive. In early April, students and other citizens were tested at entry and allowed to return to their homes for quarantine, but tracking later found that those infected were also infecting their families. This led to the need to have airport-based quarantine centers.
Secondly, in view of the uncontrolled hot spots in many parts of the world and the realization that every arriving flight could have passengers who might recycle the virus, quarantine hotels at arriving airports were established. In each arrival city, between 15 and 20 quarantine hotels can accommodate up to 5000 total arriving passengers within a two-week quarantine time period. Each airport is assigned to accept flights from a designated region with Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou accepting transpacific flights and some from the southern hemisphere. This means that, in those three main receiving airports, about 15,000 arrivals can be processed for reentry within a two-week time frame. At this rate, unless adjustments are made to quarantines, it could take 33 weeks from when the ban is lifted to process 250,000 people trying to enter for employment purposes.
Thirdly, the number of quarantine spaces determines the number of flights that are allowed to enter China. As in most countries, airlines wanting to land must obtain paid landing slots. The CAAC document describes these temporary limitations as the “Five Ones”, one airline, one country, one route, one week and one flight. This is in addition to the voluntary flight cancellations of several major airlines into China. The “Five Ones” policy was implemented at the end of March. Presently, knowing there is a ban on foreign arrivals, there is little demand for places on most airlines so some airlines that have paid landing slots are now cancelling flights and relinquishing slots.
“Five Ones Guidelines for International Inbound flights”, Civil Aviation Administration for China, March 29, 2020
However, as August approaches, demand for airline space will grow. At that point the numbers will increase to an excessive demand for the spaces available. Then, the number of foreigners wishing to enter China will be significantly limited due to the "Five ones.” This may also affect the cost of airfares. In addition, airlines with available slots must reapply every month in advance for the next month to retain an available slot based on numbers of booked passengers. Airlines are also advised to implement new social distancing requirements on aircraft. Booked passengers could still find their flight cancelled if the airline is not selected in a given month among the "Five Ones" explained in the attachment because slots will be granted to airlines with the most booked passengers during that month. In the event an airline is not selected that month for “Five Ones”, the airline is required to grant a refund and the potential passenger can try again for a later flight. The chosen airlines may not be known until the “Five One” selections are made one month in advance. With continued containment of the virus spread within China, it is possible that this system may change, but it is unlikely that additional hotels will be designated as quarantine hotels. And we think filling education spaces is difficult!
Summer Home Leave for Teachers
With this information as a guide, the question arises, “Should teachers be granted home leave during the summer of 2020?” If they have four-six weeks of summer leave, presently they will need to spend two weeks in quarantine/self-quarantine upon return to their home country and two weeks of quarantine upon return to China, IF the foreigner ban is lifted and IF they can book a return flight under the “Five Ones” limitations on numbers of flights. Under these conditions, departing China for any reason into the foreseeable future is not advised.
Overall, this assessment provides more hope than the original "Beijinger" article, but one can see that it may still be complicated and take time to get anyone into China before October.
- In the northern hemisphere autumn, to prevent recycling of the virus from the southern hemisphere and from West back to Asia, restrictions of some sort will be needed. With the excellent monitoring system in China, quarantines are an obvious deterrent.
Until a vaccine is available in sufficient quantities for at least 1.5 billion people, quarantines may remain in place with exceptions for those who produce a certified vaccination certificate when available.
The number of flights allowed to enter China will remain equivalent to the number of quarantine hotel spaces available in the nine entry cities.
The cost of airfares may increase with demand, limited flights and limited seats.
Despite airline new sanitizing procedures that are much improved, there are still infected and asymptomatic passengers on board some flights, resulting in additional infected people.
Many companies are in a race to produce a vaccine. Urgency often results in mistakes and it remains to be seen which vaccine will be the most effective. The earliest dates for the approval and production of a vaccine are January 2021, but this may require even more time.
Airlines are complying with sanitizing and social distancing requirements in aircraft which also reduces the number of spaces on flights, thus also potentially raising the ticket cost, especially at a peak travel time like August.
Your local education bureau can begin to issue work permits, the Foreign Ministry can begin to issue visas, and people can try to book flights, but they may still not be able to enter China in August.
The CAAC policy from March 29 of the “Five Ones”, one airline, one country, one route, one week and one flight will not be able to accommodate the demand for flights in July, August, or September.
Due to the ban on entry of foreigners into China and the subsequent measures to limit flights, it is ill-advised for anyone in China now to leave China for any reason for the foreseeable future.
In order to prevent recycling of the coronavirus into China, especially from South to North and from West into Asia it is important that the quarantine system remain in place for all persons who want to enter China. This is due to the change of seasons during which viruses and influenzas thrive. It is possible that varying kinds of restrictions will remain options according to conditions until a vaccine is produced in sufficient quantities. The number of quarantine hotels available in key entry cities limits the number of people who can enter China during any two-week time frame. It may take until January to process all of the foreign population that wishes to return or enter to take up new employment. To give new or returning staff the best chance to enter China when you need them to arrive, it is advisable for them to book flights as soon as possible and monitor their booking status. To avoid one month of quarantine (two weeks upon returning home for summer leave and two weeks upon return to China), it is best for staff to remain in China this summer, especially as there is no guarantee that they might return in August.