China eases travel restrictions after 3 years of zero-covid


China will ease its strict coronavirus restrictions on entry into the country starting January 8, according to a long list of new policies released by its National Health Commission on Monday. The most significant move so far is the re-opening of borders that have been virtually closed for nearly three years.

Arrivals in China with negative nucleic acid tests will be able to “enter society,” a huge change from current practice, which sees all entrants at airports – both foreign visitors and Chinese citizens – tested by hazmat-clad workers and being brought on buses. towards quarantine hotels, where they stay alone for several days. China’s digital health passports will not restrict their arrival movements that continue to test negative.

Air traffic is expected to increase in both directions. Restrictions on the number of flights allowed into Chinese airports will be reduced, according to the policies.

Meanwhile, outbound travel for Chinese citizens, who have not left much of their country since 2020, will be done “in an orderly manner,” the policies said. When the news was released, searches for international air tickets surged in China, with Thailand, Japan and South Korea emerging as the most popular destinations, Chinese state-affiliated media reported.

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The new policies are meant to help travel again for business, study and family reunions. However, there is no word on whether China will reopen to tourism.

The move follows an incremental easing of domestic restrictions on December 7, which ended mandatory testing that led to long hours spent outdoors in the cold, a lockdown that saw people physically barred from their homes and even the use of mass quarantine camps. mild cases.

China’s low covid death toll has been criticized as unbelievable

Officials have previously locked down entire cities in pursuit of China’s “zero covid” strategy, which aimed to completely stop the virus from spreading. These restrictions led to angry demonstrations in November, which spread quickly and widely from universities to factories.

Outside China, Monday’s announcement gave hope to thousands of international students who have spent nearly three years locked out of the country and the universities in which they are registered. This group, which was advocating under the hashtag #TakeUsBackToChina, had trouble getting visas, booking flights or getting to locked campuses.

In recent years China has emerged as an affordable higher education destination, attracting almost half a million students from abroad in 2018.

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Shahroz Khan, 22, a medical student from India, was studying in China when he returned to his home country in 2020. He had no idea that the Chinese border would remain closed for years, and that he would not there to return to campus. He completed his degree online, but still needs to return to China to fulfill an internship requirement.

“For the last 2½ years, we have heard the same answer: either a lockdown or restrictions or an increase in cases,” he said by phone from India.

Khan’s university in Jiangsu province previously asked students to refrain from trying to come back before February 2023. With the restrictions eased, he hopes to go back to China sooner.

China prepares for exit wave of infections as it eases covid policies

Experts say the country needs to be clear and transparent in its communications and treat international students with compassion.

“The inconsistent treatment of international students was a soft power failure for China,” said Curtis S. Chin, a former US ambassador to the Asian Development Bank who is now chairman of the Milken Institute’s Asia Center.

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He added that many students returned to the United States and parts of Europe after those regions opened up. “The contrast with the situation in China is striking,” he said.

Chin added that China may continue to attract international students due to low costs and relative quality, but may need to offer scholarships and financial aid to become an attractive higher education destination.

Andy Mok, research fellow at the Center for China and Globalization in Beijing, China said China’s coronavirus containment strategy had been successful but “costly in economic, social and emotional terms with foreign students, business executives and tourists mostly unable to enter or return to China for several years .” Now, the government’s focus would be on economic recovery with the change in covid strategy, he said.

But even as China loosens its entry rules, countries like Japan and India are increasing restrictions on travelers from China as cases there escalate.

On Tuesday, Japanese media The authorities said there will be tighter restrictions for those traveling from China. I Indiathe health minister announced last week that the New Delhi airport had begun testing travelers from several countries, including China.


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