BEIJING (AFP) -- China tightened quarantine measures for international arrivals on Monday as the country worries about a rise in imported cases of the deadly coronavirus and anger raged online at how Europe and the United States are handling the pandemic.
After declaring they had "basically curbed” the spread of the disease within China, where the virus first emerged, authorities have now ordered international arrivals to Beijing to go into centralized quarantine for 14 days.
About 20,000 people -- one-tenth of them foreigners -- have entered China by plane daily since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a pandemic on March 11, according to an immigration official.
New arrivals are now being transferred to an exhibition centre near Beijing’s main international airport for screening before heading to quarantine facilities.
Officials in protective suits and police officers guarded the centre on Monday, while ambulances waited outside on standby.
Jacob Gunter, who arrived from the U.S. on Monday morning, described his journey as "a bit of an Odyssey”.
It took more than six hours for the American expatriate to get from his plane to being transferred to a hotel where he must complete his quarantine.
Travelers were previously been allowed to undergo mandatory isolation at home.
Authorities have given few details but at least three hotels told AFP they were designated to receive quarantined passengers. Staff wearing medical suits waited at hotel entrances.
Minors, pregnant women, the elderly and people living alone -- or those with underlying medical conditions -- can still quarantine at home, Beijing city officials said.
Outside the transfer centre, some passengers from Germany and the Democratic Republic of the Congo told AFP they were exempt from the centralized quarantine because they were diplomats.
At least two other regions in China have also imposed a 14-day centralized quarantine on foreign arrivals, state media reported Sunday, while Shanghai previously imposed isolation period at home or in centers for those arriving from virus-hit countries.
A total of 123 cases from abroad have now been reported in China after 12 more were discovered Monday.
Imported cases have now outnumbered domestic infections for three straight days.
Chinese social media users on Monday criticized Europe and the U.S. over how they are handling the pandemic.