China abolishes mandatory quarantine for people arriving from abroad

People in China responded happily, rushing to schedule overseas trips on Tuesday after Beijing announced it would be mandatorily scrapping it COVIDQuarantine for overseas arrivals, ending nearly three years of self-imposed isolation.

In a quick move late Monday, China said from Jan. 8, those entering the country would no longer have to quarantine on arrival — in another Reversal of the strict coronavirus controls that had torpedoed its economy and sparked nationwide protests.

The new guideline will make it much easier for people going abroad to return home, Reuters news agency points out.

Cases have risen across the country as key pillars of containment policies are removed, with authorities acknowledging the outbreak is “impossible” to trace and scrapping the much-maligned official case count.

Beijing also last week narrowed the criteria by which COVID deaths are counted, a move experts said would suppress the number of deaths attributed to the virus.

Nevertheless, many Chinese reacted with joy to the end of the restrictions that have kept the country largely closed to the outside world since March 2020.

“I felt like the epidemic was finally over,” said Beijing office worker Fan Chengcheng, 27. “The travel plans I made three years ago may now become a reality.”

Beijing Capital International Airport
Travelers walk with their luggage at Beijing Capital International Airport amid the COVID-19 outbreak in Beijing, China, December 27, 2022.


Shanghai resident Ji Weihe said the move would benefit China’s “economy, people’s lives and their desire to go out and travel.”

Another Shanghai local, surnamed Du, said faster reopening could help the country achieve herd immunity faster, adding that there was “no way to avoid the virus” now circulating in the eastern megacity.

Online searches for international flights surged in the news, with travel platform Tongcheng seeing an 850 percent increase in searches and a 10-fold increase in requests for visas, according to state media reports.

Rival platform Group said the volume of searches for popular overseas travel destinations increased 10-fold year on year within half an hour of the announcement.

Users were particularly interested in trips to Macau, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand and South Korea, she added.

However, some Chinese may face hurdles going abroad as Japan announces it would require COVID-19 tests on arrival for travelers from mainland China starting Friday.

Rising cases in China, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said, “raised growing concern in Japan”.

The announcement has effectively lowered the curtain on a zero-COVID regime of mass testing, strict lockdowns and lengthy quarantines that has disrupted supply chains and shattered business ties with the world’s second largest economy.

“The overwhelming prospect is just a relief,” said Tom Simpson, executive director for China at the China-Britain Business Council. “It ends three years of very significant disruption.”

A surge in international trade missions is now expected over the next year, he told AFP, although full business resumption is likely to come “gradually” as airlines slowly bring more flights online and companies adjust their China strategies for 2023.

All passengers arriving in China must undergo mandatory centralized quarantine since March 2020. This shortened from three weeks to one week in June and to five days last month.

The end of those rules in January will also result in COVID-19 being downgraded from Class A to a Class B infectious disease, a formal distinction that allows authorities to introduce looser controls.

Some entry restrictions remain in place, with China still largely suspending visa issuance for overseas tourists and students.

The Chinese government and state media have tried to paint a picture of measured calm as COVID finally swept the country.

But officials in several major cities said hundreds of thousands of people are estimated to have been infected in recent weeks.

Hospitals and crematoriums across the country were also packed with COVID patients and victims, according to independent reporting from AFP and other media.

Some studies estimate that around a million people in China could die from COVID in the next few months.

The Chinese government announced last week that it would effectively stop recording the number of people dying from COVID.

And Beijing’s National Health Commission (NHC) said Saturday it would no longer publish daily case numbers.

The winter surge comes next month ahead of two major public holidays when hundreds of millions of people are expected to travel to their hometowns to meet up with relatives. China abolishes mandatory quarantine for people arriving from abroad

Rick Schindler

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