China reopens borders in final goodbye to zero-COVID According to Reuters
© Reuters. Passengers arriving for international flights wait in line next to a police officer wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) and talk to a woman at the airport in Chengdu, China January 6, 2023. REUTERS/Employees
By Joyce Zhou and Brenda Goh
HONG KONG / SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Tourists began flocking through land and sea border crossings from Hong Kong to mainland China on Sunday, many eager for the much-awaited reunions long ago, when Beijing opened its border almost closed since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
After three years, the mainland will open its border with Hong Kong and end quarantine requirements for incoming travelers, tearing down the last pillar of the no-COVID policy that has protected Chinese people from the virus but also cut them off from the rest of the world. world.
China’s easing of one of the world’s strictest COVID-19 regimes over the past month follows historic protests against a policy that includes routine testing, travel restrictions and mass lockdowns that have caused heavy damage to the second largest economy.
“I am very happy, very happy, very excited. I haven’t seen my parents in years,” said Teresa Chow, a Hong Kong resident, as she and dozens of other tourists prepared to enter mainland China from Hong Kong’s Lok Ma Chau checkpoint in the morning. early Sunday.
“My parents are in bad health, and I couldn’t go back to see them even if they had colon cancer, so I’m really happy to go back and see them now,” she said. added that she intends to take the lead. to her hometown in the eastern Chinese city of Ningbo.
Investors hope the reopening will eventually revive a $17 trillion economy that is suffering its slowest growth in nearly half a century. But the sudden policy reversal has caused a massive wave of infections to overwhelm some hospitals and disrupt business.
The opening of the border after the start of “chunyun” on Saturday, the first 40-day period of the Lunar New Year travel, before the pandemic was the world’s largest annual migration of returnees hometown to spend the holidays with family. About 2 billion people are expected to travel this season, nearly double last year and recovering up to 70% from 2019 levels, the government said.
More Chinese are also expected to start traveling abroad, a long-awaited change to tourist destinations in countries like Thailand and Indonesia, although some governments – worried about China’s COVID spike – which is imposing restrictive measures on travelers from the country.
Tourism will not quickly return to pre-pandemic levels due to factors such as a scarcity of international flights, analysts say.
China on Sunday also resumed issuing passports and tourist visas to mainland residents, ordinary visas and residence permits to foreigners. Beijing has a quota on how many people can travel between Hong Kong and China each day.
Videos posted on Chinese social media show workers at Shanghai’s Pudong airport overnight removing bright blue placards marking routes through the international terminal for enforcement The regime requires travelers from abroad to quarantine for up to eight days upon arrival.
Other videos show people embracing each other affectionately as they reunite at the airport gates.
At Hong Kong’s Lok Ma Chau checkpoint, a driver surnamed Yip said he was among those eager to go to the mainland.
“It’s been three years, we don’t have time to procrastinate,” he said.