China to Drop COVID-19 Cross-Border Travel Restrictions

China’s National Health Commission announced in a statement on December 26 that the country will now treat COVID-19 as a Class-B infectious disease, downgrading the virus from a Class-A disease. Mandatory checks and quarantine for international arrivals will be abolished and outbound tourism by Chinese citizens will be resumed in an orderly manner, which will cause a sharp increase in ticket searches.

The new border policy, scheduled to take effect on January 8, will only require travelers arriving in China to provide evidence of a negative nucleic acid test result 48 hours before their travel. Authorities say they will further optimize arrangements for foreigners to enter China, such as resuming work and production, business, studying abroad and visiting relatives.

According to Trip.com data, within half an hour of the policy being announced, search volume for popular travel destinations increased 10-fold year over year, and hotel searches in other countries reached a three-year high. A trip to Japan, Thailand, South Korea, the United States, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia and the United Kingdom during the Spring Festival holiday is now an attractive option for many Chinese people. The search volume for outbound and group tours during the Spring Festival jumped sixfold.

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According to Tongcheng Travel data, after the news was published, the top three overseas destinations for potential Chinese tourists were Japan, South Korea and Thailand. Those showing the strongest interest in outbound travel are mainly in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. According to Kunar, Since December, hotel bookings in other countries have gradually increased, such as those in the Philippines, France and Thailand.

Chinese media outlet Yicai quoted Fang Zakian, an industry analyst at the Trip.com Research Institute, as saying: “Chinese tourists have made a large contribution to travel in Asia, and the absence of Chinese tourists in recent years is making it difficult for Asia. Tourism will rise. With the relaxation of outbound travel and preferential prices, it is believed that several countries in Asia will lead in getting the attention of Chinese tourists. The release of the new regulations ensures smoother cross-border travel, which will actually mobilize tourists’ willingness to travel.”

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It is worth noting that there are still certain restrictions on visa applications in the short term. Trip.com said current passports are still mainly issued for business, study abroad, visiting relatives and other needs. Most overseas countries have started visa processing, but due to the epidemic in China, many consulates are understaffed.

Despite this, the enthusiasm of Chinese citizens for outbound travel is still high. According to Trip.com data, since December 7, the number of visa applicants abroad has increased more than 12 times compared to the same period last year, and Singapore, Japan, South Korea, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia are their destinations.

See also: China to scrap digital ‘travel card’ to track COVID-19

However, when China lifted controls on international arrivals, some countries began increasing nucleic acid testing requirements for travelers from China. India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare announced on December 24 that international travelers from mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand and South Korea must bring RT-PCR test reports when traveling to India, and those found to be symptomatic or positive for COVID-19 will be quarantined . In addition, starting December 24, India will subject 2% of passengers on every international flight to random nucleic acid tests.

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South Korea’s Agency for Disease Control and Prevention added China to a list of what it called “destination screening” countries on Dec. 16, requiring stricter screening at Incheon Airport.

According to Viaggiare Sicuri, the website of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, starting December 24, all travelers from China (regardless of nationality) will undergo nucleic acid tests. This policy will be applied temporarily until January 30, 2023, and will be re-evaluated on that date.



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