After almost three years of closure, China is finally reopening to international tourism with the removal of strict Covid border restrictions for both inbound and outbound travellers. Jenny Southan reports
As anticipated by Globetrender, China has announced that it is abandoning its “zero Covid” policy and is opening back up to the world from early 2023.
The most significant step will be the scrapping of hotel quarantines for inbound travellers from January 8 and the removal of a cap on the daily number of flights allowed into China. (Masks will still need to be worn on board.) There will be no need to apply for a health code.
Since March 2020, anyone entering China had to endure a mandatory quarantine at a state facility for up to three weeks. However, that was reduced to five days in November 2022.
In about a week, the only restriction for incoming travellers to China will be the need to take a PCR test before flying, with a validity window of 48 before arriving at customs.
Visas for inbound business travellers and people visiting family will be issued from January 8 but general tourist visas (which are required for those with a British passport) are yet to be given the “green light”. (You can learn more about entry requirements for UK travellers here.)
According to the South China Morning Post, “even if passengers present with a fever at customs, they can take a rapid antigen test and if positive with mild symptoms, can isolate at home. Travellers with severe symptoms will be encouraged to seek medical treatment”.
The new measures will also grant greater freedoms to Chinese citizens who want to travel overseas again. Firstly, they won’t need to provide a reason to the government. Secondly, from January 8, they will once again be able to apply for passports. This will be a huge boon to many countries that have previously received huge spending from Chinese tourists.
However, for Chinese outbound travellers, many countries such as Japan, India, France, the US and the UK will impose testing requirements on them because cases of Covid have now gone up dramatically in the country, due to a countrywide removal of regional lockdowns, quarantines for local people who are infected and forced testing. Taking a test to fly will no doubt be a small price to pay though for far greater liberties.
According to the BBC, within half an hour of the recent notice that China’s borders would reopen, data from travel site Trip.com – cited in Chinese media – showed searches for popular destinations had increased ten-fold year-on-year. Macau, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand and South Korea were the most popular destinations.