Will the UK impose travel restrictions on arrivals from China?

Heathrow Airport, Terminal 2A, check-in hall, November 2015.
Heathrow Airport, Terminal 2A, check-in hall. Photo Credit: Heathrow Airport

LONDON – The current UK government stance on arrivals from mainland China has not included the imposition on together restrictions for inbound travellers – so far.

A UK government spokesman recently stated that there are “no plans to re-introduce COVID-19 testing or additional requirements for arrivals into the UK.”

In a recent update from UK news outlet Sky News, the defence secretary Ben Wallace has now stated that the position with respect to arrivals from China is presently “under review”.

China scraps Zero-Covid policy

Marking a major shift away from its zero-Covid policy, China recently announced the cessation of quarantine requirements for travellers would come into effect as of January 8, 2023.

This will also mean that Chinese citizens will be able to travel overseas, according to China’s immigration authority. Major online travel agencies reported a spike in patronage within just hours of the announcement.

The top travel destinations reportedly included Japan, Thailand, South Korea, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.

The lifting of restrictions by China 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 restrictions in November this year, when the mandatory quarantine period was shortened by two days to five days.

At the same time that China relaxed control measures, Covid cases have skyrocketed, with Bloomberg reporting that as many as 248 million people, or approximately 18% of the population, have likely contracted the virus in the first 20 days of December.

As millions of Chinese citizens travel across the Lunar New Year period, this number is likely to soar.

Nations imposing new restrictions

The situation in China, at the same time as the relaxation of travel restrictions has led several countries to impose restrictions on arrivals from mainland China.

So far, restrictions and test requirements have been imposed by:

  • Malaysia
  • South Korea
  • Taiwan
  • Italy
  • India
  • United States

Two flights operating into Milan, Italy became the first to see the rollout of mandatory testing of inbound passengers. The results revealed just over 50% of the passengers on one of the flights tested positive for COVID-19.

Speaking at a news conference, Guido Bertolaso, Lombardy regional councillor said: “On the first flight, out of 92 passengers 35 (38%) are positive. On the second, out of 120 passengers 62 (52%) are positive.”


With the United Kingdom potentially on the verge of introducing tougher requirements for travellers from China, the Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has indicated that Australia would monitor the situation and review requirements as necessary.

Similarly, the Philippines reports it is “very cautious” with regards to the situation, and may consider the imposition of testing requirements.

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