First batch of international tourists welcome in China after repeal of COVID-19 travel restrictions
Over 387 passengers were aboard two flights from Toronto and Singapore on the final day when the country lifted the strict COVID-19 travel restrictions. Additionally, cross-border travel between the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the Chinese mainland resumed on Sunday.
China welcomed international visitors on Sunday and returning residents without needing quarantine, despite a surge in infections following the repeal of its stringent zero-Covid policy.
According to the state-run CGTN TV, the first flights under China's new 'no quarantine' rules for international travellers landed early Sunday morning at airports in Guangzhou and Shenzhen in southern Guangdong province. Officers said that 387 passengers were aboard two flights from Toronto and Singapore on the final day when the country lifted the strict COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Additionally, cross-border travel between the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the Chinese mainland resumed on Sunday.
Last month China announced that it was lifting COVID-19 restrictions that required international arrivals to undergo nucleic acid testing and quarantine.
Inbound visitors are only required to take a PCR test 48 hours before departure and no longer need to apply for a health code from Chinese diplomatic and consular missions.
On Saturday, the Chinese government ordered the release of people detained concerning several coronavirus-related incidents.
The action of repealing the travel restriction comes when China is dealing with a sudden surge in coronavirus infections due to Omicron variants, following the government's relaxation of its stringent zero-Covid policy last month in response to a wave of anti-government protests across the country.
According to a government notice, any seized property should be returned, and quarantine and border control measures will no longer be criminalised.
There was no direct mention of whether the order applies to the scores of people detained during last month's rare protests against the zero-Covid policy, some of which called for the resignation of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Hundreds of people have been arrested in the last three years for resisting the lockdowns and dragging people out of their homes to take them to quarantine centres.
While the announcement to scrap all quarantine rules was widely welcomed at home, the timing of the opening raised concerns abroad as it coincides with the country's annual Spring Festival on January 22, during which millions of Chinese will travel to destinations around the world.
The travel-starved Chinese are already preparing to travel in large numbers abroad, especially since they will not have to quarantine upon their return.
Previously, passengers arriving from abroad were required to stay in government accommodations for more than two weeks, which was gradually reduced to five days with three days of home observation.
The world's largest human migration, China's 40-day Chunyun or Spring Festival travel rush, which has begun, is expected to see approximately 2.09 billion passenger trips made this year, up 99.5 per cent from the 2022 level.
The passenger volume has rapidly increased due to the country's optimised epidemic response and the release of pent-up travel demand, according to China's Ministry of Transport on Friday.
Though the official holiday lasts about a week, beginning January 22, Chunyun in 2023 will last 40 days, beginning January 7 and ending February 15, the official added.
Australia, Canada, India, Israel, Malaysia, Morocco, Qatar, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, the United States, and several EU countries have asked Chinese travellers to show PCR tests taken 48 hours before arrival; in contrast, Morocco has banned Chinese travellers from entering the country due to concerning the spread of Covid-19.
(With inputs from PTI)