- China relaxed travel rules for international tourists, now requiring negative COVID-19 tests and no quarantine.
- Abandoning the “dynamic zero” COVID policy led to lifted COVID-19 measures and resumed visa-free travel from January 8.
- Around 250,000 people entered China on reopening day, yet overall travel remains below pre-pandemic levels.
- Some countries now mandate tests or vaccinations for travelers from China, indicating cautious reactions.
China Eases Travel Mandates for International Tourists
Beijing, China–China, the world’s most populous country, has eased its travel mandates for international tourists after nearly three years of strict travel restrictions.
Shift from “Dynamic Zero” Covid Policy
As per a report, the first international flight that arrived in China since the loosening of the law was a China Southern Airlines flight from Toronto, which landed at 00:16 am on January 8.
The country finally abandoned Xi Jinping’s “dynamic zero” Covid policy in mid-December after citizens, tired of strict lockdowns, being forcefully put into quarantine camps and separated from family abroad, led nationwide protests calling for its eradication.
Last month, the National Health Commission of China (NHC) released a statement lifting a large part of its COVID-19 control measures.
Also, effective on January 8 onwards, China restarted its visa-free policy, which grants applicants to travel without a visa if one qualifies for the visa-free transit policy.
Inbound travelers will not have to undergo the quarantine period and need only produce a negative nucleic acid test (or NAAT) or PCR test report on arrival (conducted within 48 hours before departure).
Impact on Travel and Global Reactions
Since the lifting of restrictions, there has reportedly been an unprecedented surge in travel and tourism to and from the region.
According to another report, approximately 250,000 people entered China (by air and sea) on the first day of China having almost fully re-opened its borders.
“Since the new measures were rolled out to optimize COVID-19 response, the online search for air tickets surged seven times,” said Guo Lechun, vice president of online travel service provider Qunar.com in a press release.
Although there has been a significant increase in travel in the country, it only constitutes a fraction of pre-pandemic numbers.
Furthermore, reports indicate that many countries and international entities (including airlines) are highly critical of China’s move, wary of the spike in cases recorded in the South Asian country last month.
The United States, Japan, India, the UK, and an increasing number of countries from the EU require travelers from China to produce a negative antigen test result or proof of vaccination to be allowed to enter.
What We Think
China’s decision to ease travel restrictions signifies a step toward normalization but has garnered mixed reactions globally.
The surge in travel shows pent-up demand, yet it’s a fraction of pre-pandemic numbers. The cautious approach by some countries reflects concerns about recent case spikes in China.
As the world navigates reopening, balancing safety measures with travel freedom remains a delicate challenge for both China and the international community.