China to end quarantine for international travelers

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

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BEIJING – China announced late Monday that travelers will no longer have to quarantine when they arrive on the mainland starting in January. 8.

The upcoming change comes after a sharp relaxation this month of domestic Covid controls. The changes end most of the more restrictive measures that China had imposed for nearly three years under its zero-Covid policy.

Since March 2020, travelers to the mainland have been required to self-quarantine, usually at a designated hotel for 14 days. That isolation period later began to increase to 21 days or more for some travelers, before China began reducing quarantine times this summer.

Current policy requires five days of quarantine in a centralized facility, followed by three days at home.

China’s National Health Commission also said that effectively in January. On the 8th, the authorities would stop tracking close contacts of Covid patients, stop the designation of Covid risk areas and cancel the Covid measures that had slowed the importation of goods.

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

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China’s economy slowed this year amid strict Covid controls that shut down Shanghai for about two months, as well as other parts of the country. Beijing abruptly ended many of the restrictions earlier this month. Meanwhile, local covid infections surged, straining an already stretched public health system.

More flights needed

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

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

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

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In 2019, China said there were 670 million international trips in and out of the country. By 2021, that number had dropped to 128 million, according to the National Immigration Service.

China said Monday it will improve visa arrangements for foreigners to enter the country to resume work, business, study, visit relatives and other gatherings.

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

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

Previously, Chinese tourists and their spending abroad, especially for luxury goods, had been a major source of revenue for businesses in many international tourist destinations.

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