Excitement uproars as China opens its borders to non-quarantine travel
China has eliminated its pandemic travel restrictions, abolishing the need for inbound travelers to undergo quarantine and, with it, nearly three years of isolation.
According to the state-run China Global Television Network, the first travelers to arrive under the new regulations touched down at airports in the southern cities of Guangzhou and Shenzhen just after midnight on Sunday (CGTN).
According to the report, none of the 387 passengers on board aircraft from Singapore and Toronto, Canada, had to undergo COVID-19 testing upon arrival or five days of quarantine at centralized government facilities.
The stringent “zero-COVID” policy of China is finally being dismantled with the relaxation of restrictions on international travel.
Following historic protests against the limitations last month, Beijing started to roll back the tough tactics of mandatory quarantines, punishing lockdowns, and regular testing. However, the sudden changes have made many of its 1.4 billion people susceptible to the virus for the first time, sparking a wave of infections that is overrunning some hospitals, depleting the stock of medications at pharmacies, and creating long lineups at cemeteries.
Since borders were closed nearly three years ago, many Chinese have been unable to travel abroad for fear of being forced to stay in isolation at government facilities upon their return. However, with the lifting of quarantine regulations, this is now possible.
However, foreigners are only permitted to enter China for business or family visits; the country’s borders are still restricted to tourists.
From Beijing, Al Jazeera’s Katrina Yu said that Sunday marked “the real end of the ‘zero-COVID’ policy” for many Chinese citizens.
“That’s because it was previously impossible to enter or exit China without first undergoing quarantine at official locations as well as at home. People are therefore really eager and liberated to travel abroad, she explained. Popular travel sites report that searches for departure flights have increased by around 80% compared to this time last year, with Thailand being the most popular destination. Australia, South Korea, Japan, and the US are some of the others,” she continued.
However, due to worries over Beijing’s “under-representation” of infections and deaths from the sickness as well as the possibility for the introduction of new and more severe subvariants of the coronavirus, more than a dozen nations have made COVID-19 tests for visitors from China mandatory.
Three land checkpoints will allow up to 50,000 Hong Kong residents to cross the border each day after registering online, and another 10,000 will be permitted to arrive by sea, air, or bridge without having to register in advance.
Up until Saturday, more than 410,000 people had signed up to travel, according to public broadcaster RTHK.