China to end quarantine for international travelers

Passenger planes sit on the tarmac at Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport on November 4, 2022, before China ends Covid-related travel restrictions.

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BEIJING — China announced late Monday that travelers will no longer need to self-quarantine upon arrival in the mainland from Jan. 8.

The coming change follows an abrupt relaxation this month of national Covid controls. The changes end most of the most restrictive measures that China had imposed for nearly three years as part of its zero-Covid policy.

Since March 2020, travelers to the mainland have had to quarantine, usually at a designated hotel and for 14 days. This period of isolation then began to increase to 21 days or more for some travellers, before China began to reduce quarantine times this summer.

The current policy calls for five days of quarantine in a centralized facility, followed by three days at home.

China’s National Health Commission also said that starting Jan. 8, authorities would stop tracking close contacts of Covid patients, stop designating Covid risk areas, and roll back Covid measures that had slowed the importation of Covid-19. goods.

The commission said travelers to China would only need to show a negative virus test in the last 48 hours and would no longer have to ask for a clear health code. During the flight, passengers will still be required to wear a face mask, according to the announcement.

China’s economy has slowed this year amid tight Covid controls that shut down Shanghai for about two months, along with other parts of the country. Beijing suddenly ended many restrictions earlier this month. Meanwhile, local Covid infections have increased, putting pressure on an already strained public health system.

More flights needed

The inbound quarantine requirement and other Covid-related measures have made it difficult for foreign companies to China to bring in factory staff, managers and technicians.

“Just because the borders are open doesn’t mean travel will rebound immediately,” Michael Hart, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, said last week.

He noted that the number of flights available to and from China needed to recover. “I don’t think US carriers or international carriers will immediately return to normal because these planes are already flying other routes,” Hart said. “It may be different with Chinese airlines, as planes are just sitting on the tarmac doing nothing.”

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In 2019, China said there were 670 million international trips inside and outside the country. By 2021, the number had plunged to 128 million, according to the National Immigration Administration.

China said on Monday it would improve visa arrangements for foreigners wishing to enter the country for the resumption of work, business, study, visiting relatives and other gatherings.

The ability of Chinese citizens to travel abroad will be “resumed in an orderly manner,” the announcement read in Chinese, according to a CNBC translation.

During the pandemic, Beijing has blocked Chinese citizens from obtaining passports or leaving the country unless they have a clear, usually business purpose.

Previously, Chinese tourists and their spending abroad – especially on luxury goods – was an important source of revenue for businesses in many international tourist spots.

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