BEIJING (AFP) – China lifted quarantine requirements for inbound travellers yesterday, ending almost three years of self-imposed isolation even as the country battles a surge in COVID cases.
The first people to arrive expressed relief at not having to undergo quarantines.
In Hong Kong, where the border with mainland China was re-opened after years of closure, more than 400,000 people were set to travel north in the coming eight weeks.
At Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport, a woman surnamed Pang told AFP yesterday she was thrilled with the ease of travel.
“I think it’s really good that the policy has changed now,” she told AFP.
“It’s a necessary step I think. COVID has become normalised now and after this hurdle everything will be smooth,” she said.
Chinese people rushed to plan trips abroad after officials last month announced that quarantine would be dropped, sending inquiries on popular travel websites soaring.
But the expected surge in visitors has led more than a dozen countries to impose mandatory COVID tests on travellers from the world’s most populous nation as it battles its worst-ever outbreak.
China has called travel curbs imposed by other countries “unacceptable”, despite it continuing to largely block foreign tourists and international students from travelling to the country.
China’s COVID outbreak is forecast to worsen as it enters the Lunar New Year holiday this month, during which millions are expected to travel from hard-hit megacities to the countryside to visit vulnerable older relatives. At Beijing airport yesterday, barriers that once kept international and domestic arrivals apart were gone.
One woman, there to greet a friend arriving from Hong Kong, said the first thing they’d do was grab a meal. “It’s so great, we haven’t seen each other in so long,” Wu, 20, told AFP.
“They are studying over there, and we can meet each other directly in Beijing… It’s been a year,” she added.
At Shanghai airport, one man surnamed Yang who was arriving from the United States said he had not been aware that the rules had changed.
“I had no idea,” he told AFP.
“I’d consider myself extremely lucky if I only need to do quarantine for two days, turned out I don’t have to do quarantine at all, and no paperwork, we just walked out like that, exactly like in the past,” he added.
“I’m quite happy not needing to be in quarantine,” another woman being picked up by her boyfriend who declined to give her name told AFP.