China ends quarantine restrictions for international arrivals

Shenzen Baoan International Airport in China.
Zakaria55, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

LONDON – Marking a major shift away from its zero-Covid policy, China is to remove quarantine requirements for travellers as of January 8, 2023.

This will also mean that Chinese citizens will be able to travel overseas, according to China’s immigration authority.

The lifting of restrictions comes just prior to the Chinese New Year, or Lunar New Year, which is typically marked by mass celebrations.

The latest decision to scrap quarantine requirements follows the easing of restriction in November this year, when the mandatory quarantine period was shortened by two days to five days.

Since March 2020, it was a requirement that travellers arriving on the Chinese mainland had to quarantine at a designated hotel or facility for between fourteen to twenty-one days

Although the quarantine period will be removed completely, it is understood that international travellers will still be required to show a negative PCR test for Covid19 forty-eight hours prior to their departure.

In addition, passengers would still be required to wear face masks on flights.

Living with Covid policy

China effectively becomes the last major world economy to shift to a “living with Covid” strategy; moving away from its zero-Covid policy after unusual public protests and demonstrations in November this year.

After a three-year hiatus period which has seen China’s borders closed to people with work and study visas, it is uncertain how China plans to administrate visa holders’ entries.

Authorities have simply stated that they intend to “optimise” visa arrangements for foreigners intending to work, study or to visit family and relatives.

Similarly, the official announcement simply stated that outbound overseas travel for Chinese citizens would be resumed in “an orderly manner.”

Travel demand

Major online travel agencies have reported a spike in patronage within just hours of the announcement.

As the Chinese Covid measures have eased, several airlines have progressively bolstered route services into China for later in the New Year.

For many nations, the Chinese market is a key economic market for both passenger and cargo services.

That being said, the number of flights into and out of China is still a long way from full recovery. President of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, Michael Hart observes:

“Just because the borders are open doesn’t mean travel will bounce back immediately. I don’t think the U.S. carriers or the international carriers will immediately go back to normal because those airplanes are already flying other routes.”

Compared to pre-pandemic traffic levels, which saw around 670 million international travel movements in and out of China in 2019, the comparative number had dropped to only 128 million in 2021, according to the National Immigration Administration.

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