On January 8th, after three strenuous years of trying to contain and beat the CoronaVirus, China finally reopened its borders to Chinese citizens, residents, business travelers and individuals who have had family in China throughout the pandemic.
China’s zero-Covid policy has been globally known to be one of the strictest and most rigid Covid-19 containment policies. This zero-covid policy was designed to contain and keep infections to a minimum. Some of the methods implemented to contain this were strict and included: widespread lockdowns in some regions of the country, imposed national quarantine measures, contact tracing applications to track the virus’ spread and regular mass government testing. This zero-covid policy has received mixed reactions, due to its effect on business, food security, travel and the overall national economy.
Travelers streamed into international Chinese airports in the early morning on Sunday, January 8th. Many expressed their delight about being able to easily travel back into the country and reunite with their loved ones- some who have been separated for the entirety of the pandemic. Many who were previously unable to travel back to China were staying in neighboring Hong Kong, which has recorded the highest number of travelers back into Mainland China since the new travel policies were announced. In an attempt to prevent overwhelming airport services, Beijing has imposed a limit on the number of travelers allowed into the region per day.
However, following eased travel regulations, infection numbers in China have soared once again, as more people are now being exposed to the virus. This soar in infection numbers has yet again overwhelmed the country’s healthcare systems, and alarmed other countries, who are now receiving an increased number of inbound travelers from China. Even though the international community is aware of soaring infections, many have criticized the Chinese government for not being entirely transparent with actual infection numbers.
Consequently, countries have reimposed special Covid-19 regulations when receiving travelers from China, in an effort to prevent any new breakouts. These China specific Covid-19 travel regulations have been met with dissent from Beijing, cautioning that Chinese travelers pose no potential risk. However, with these increased numbers and worry, many have been led to question the effectiveness of China’s preventative measures and vaccination campaign.
Interestingly, these new travel regulations come at a time when China is entering its Lunar New Year season, which is generally marked by significantly higher travel within and out of the country to be with loved ones over the festive season. Therefore, there is much concern on whether eased travel restrictions would further upset the healthcare system.
These travel restrictions have not yet been extended to welcoming tourist travelers yet. However, it is interesting to watch one the most rigid and long-lasting Covid-19 prevention plans relaxing and readapting to shape into the “post pandemic normal.”