January 30, 2023

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Asian Food and Travel Chronicles

Your Thursday Briefing: The U.S. Requires Covid Tests for Travelers From China

4 min read

As Covid cases rise in China, the U.S. said it would require all travelers from China to show a negative Covid test, as well as those from Hong Kong and Macau.

The move came as China prepared to drop its quarantine requirement for incoming travelers on Jan. 8 and amid growing concern over a surge of cases in China and the country’s lack of transparency about the outbreak there.

Other countries are also nervous about the potential flood of travelers from China.

Japan said that it would limit the number of flights from China and require those who recently traveled there to be tested for the coronavirus upon arrival. If they tested positive, they would be sent into a weeklong quarantine.

India has also made Covid testing for travelers from China mandatory, and Taiwan plans to take similar steps, Reuters reports. Italy said all travelers from China would be required to take Covid antigen tests upon arrival so that the virus could be sequenced if it were detected.

Ukrainian and Russian officials have floated peace proposals and insisted they are willing to hold talks on ending the war, now in its 11th month. But the demands by each side are unacceptable to the other, leading U.S. and European officials to conclude that serious negotiations on a peace deal are unlikely to take place in the near future.

This week, Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, proposed a “peace summit” to be held by the end of February, but he told The Associated Press that the country would negotiate with Russia only if Moscow first faced a war crimes tribunal.

Russia responded by saying that Kyiv would have to give up the four regions that Moscow annexed this fall, which is flatly unacceptable to Ukraine.

“There cannot be a peace plan for Ukraine that does not take into account today’s realities with Russian territory,” the Kremlin spokesman said. Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, warned that if Ukraine did not give up the regions, “the Russian Army will deal with this issue.”

The Communist Party cast aside restrictive “zero Covid” policy, which set off mass protests that were a rare challenge to the Communist leadership.

More fighting to come: The hard-line positions suggest that both sides believe they have more to gain militarily. Ukraine holds the battlefield momentum, but Moscow’s forces still occupy large chunks of the east and south.

Other updates:

A Russian tycoon who had criticized the war was found dead after apparently falling from a hotel terrace in India.

President Vladimir Putin said Russia would ban oil exports to countries that have agreed to a Western price cap. It’s likely to have limited impact.

The U.S. is trying to prevent Iran from supplying Russia with drones.

Pope Francis asked the faithful to pray for the retired Pope Benedict XVI, his 95-year-old predecessor. Francis said Benedict was “very ill,” and the Vatican said his health had “deteriorated in recent hours due to advancing age.”

Benedict, the first pope in six centuries to step down, has become increasingly frail. In recent years, he has rarely made public appearances. Francis called on people to “support him in this witness of love to the church, until the end.”

When he retired nearly 10 years ago, Benedict cited his declining health. He has since lived at a monastery on the grounds of Vatican City.

Uncharted territory: Normally, upon the death of a pope, a highly ritualized set of traditions is set in motion, culminating in a conclave to chose a successor. But it is not clear if any steps of that process would apply in the case of a retired pope.

Legacy: Born in Germany, Benedict is considered conservative in his views. His tenure was marred by the unresolved sexual abuse scandal in the church. After a report earlier this year said he mishandled four cases of sexual abuse of minors in Germany decades ago, Benedict asked for forgiveness.

The Père-Lachaise cemetery in Paris draws many visitors to the tombs of Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Marcel Proust and other celebrated artists buried there. In recent years, it has also become a haven for the city’s wildlife.

The greening of the cemetery is part of a climate-first redesign of Paris’s urban landscape. “Nature’s taking back its rights,” the cemetery’s curator said.

Lives Lived: Nélida Piñon, one of Brazil’s greatest contemporary writers, whimsically explored religious symbolism and eroticism. She died at 85.

Mexico City is a hot remote-work destination: It’s affordable for Americans and Europeans, and offers a vibrant mix of gastronomy, history and bustling street life.

But the influx of remote workers is pushing housing costs higher as landlords take advantage of record demand for long-term stays on platforms like Airbnb. Local residents are being forced out of their apartments, upending the fabric of neighborhoods.

Housing activists say they are experiencing a modern-day “colonization.” Average monthly rents in Mexico City jumped to $1,080 in November from $880 in January 2020, according to a real estate website. (The average monthly salary in Mexico City is $220.)

Cities around the world, including Barcelona, London and New York, have targeted Airbnb by imposing stricter rules for rentals, but in Mexico City, the company is working with government officials “to be part of the solution,” an Airbnb spokesman said.

The city’s leftist mayor, Claudia Sheinbaum, has partnered with Airbnb on a campaign that encourages foreigners to spend money in poorer neighborhoods. The campaign is scheduled to be fully rolled out on the platform’s website early next year.