China to abandon quarantine on arrival for overseas visitors from 8 January

By Luke Barras-hill |

Covid-19 will be downgraded to a class B infectious disease from 8 January, the National Health Commission of the People’s Republic of China has announced.

China will end its quarantine policy for inbound travellers beginning 8 January 2023 in a major step towards unlocking the country’s borders after three years of stringent Covid-19 measures.

However, passengers will have to take a nucleic acid test (NAT) 48 hours before departure, confirmed a statement released by the National Health Commission on Monday evening (26 December).

Officials say they will ‘optimise’ visa arrangements for those coming to China to work and study, visit family and reunions, but at this stage there is no indication the easing of rules extends to tourists.

Under current policy, visitors to China must undergo a five-day quarantine at a government facility before isolating for a further three days at home.

‘Orderly’ return of outbound travel

A cap on the number of daily incoming flights to China is also set to be scrapped and, in a massive boost for travel retail, outbound travel by Chinese nationals ‘will be resumed in an orderly manner’ [though further detail on how this intends to be pursued has yet to materialise – Ed].

The developments come as China grapples with the virus’s spread.

Officials intend to ‘optimise’ personnel exchanges between China and foreign countries.

Earlier this month, the government announced an easing of its strict zero-Covid policy in a visible change of stance following public discontent that manifested in historic protests against pandemic containment measures.

English language media outlet Global Times, which operates under the auspices of the government’s People’s Daily newspaper, reported today (27 December) an explosion in searches for international flights and hotels made through Chinese online travel agencies.

One such OTA, Qunar, told the outlet that search volumes for international flights surged seven-fold within 15 minutes after the new policies were announced on Monday evening.

Earlier this month, a study* from marketing solutions firm Dragon Trail International revealed Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Thailand, South Korea, France, Taiwan, Maldives, Singapore and Australia as the top 10 destinations of appeal for outbound Chinese travellers.

The research conducted by Tencent, which drew 1,003 responses among Mainland Chinese travellers, had indicated that nearly three fifths (59%) wished to see inbound quarantine rules relaxed and more than half (52%) would travel outside China within one year of opening.

Interestingly, just shy of one third (32.7%) chose shopping as the purpose of their next outbound trip.

* Chinese Traveler Sentiment Report (released on 14 December 2022).

All images source: Shutterstock.

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