‘Zero Covid’ Ends, China Set For Homecoming Rush

'Felt Like Fever Dream': 'Zero Covid' ends, China prepares for the race to return home

China’s long-awaited border reopening is the last step in the process of eliminating Covid Zero

China’s long-awaited reopening of its borders – the final step in the elimination of Covid Zero – will spark a wave of returning home for many migrants, albeit a full recovery. Travels may take longer.

Starting Sunday, China no longer requires quarantine for arrivals after the authorities abandoned the policy, which, coupled with exorbitant airfare costs amid severe capacity constraints, is one major barrier for visitors. Although anyone wishing to enter the country still needs to have a negative Covid test result in 48 hours, the dramatic easing of border controls just two weeks before the Lunar New Year holiday marks the end. Beijing’s efforts to contain a virus that is accepted as endemic. all around the world.

The immediate impact is a wave of overseas Chinese returning to their homeland, many of whom have not seen their families for many years.

“I haven’t been home for almost two years, so the announcement is like a feverish dream,” said Connor Zhao, a 25-year-old consultant living in San Francisco. He is currently on holiday in Bangkok and will fly to Qingdao on January 19, during his trip including transit in Hong Kong, where there are more flights into the mainland.

“I’m very excited to meet my parents. Being able to celebrate the Lunar New Year with them means a lot to me,” he said.

However, the number of tourists coming to the country can’t seem to keep up with the increased demand for overseas trips. The influx of Chinese tourists, formerly a $280 billion spender in global holiday hotspots from Paris to Tokyo, will take months if not years to recover to pre-pandemic levels. .

A range of countries have implemented testing requirements for travelers arriving from China after the number of cases increased and airlines were reluctant to immediately make major changes to their flight schedules. them, meaning capacity is still limited and prices are high.

Chen Xin, head of China transport and entertainment research at UBS Securities, said: “Chinese people’s willingness to travel has started to recover strongly. “But it still takes time to be reflected in foreign tourist routes.”

China’s reopening of borders marks the end of Covid Zero, a strategy that kept the world’s second-largest economy isolated for three years and weighed on the economy. While the measures have managed to contain the virus for much of the pandemic as it has killed millions elsewhere, they have become increasingly irrelevant as the emergence of more infectious variants than makes it nearly impossible to extinguish the virus.

The government began rolling back the quarantine, which has been arbitrarily extended by local governments in parts of China for nearly a month at some point during the pandemic, in June of last year, at a rate that varies by date. rapidly after China abruptly abandoned its domestic Covid control measures in bulk. testing and lockdown in the last months of 2022.

It is the last country to lift border restrictions, more than a year after early Covid Zero advocates such as Singapore, Australia and New Zealand resumed international travel without quarantine.

Much of the initial entry stream is expected to come from Hong Kong, through which many migrants will travel with limited direct flights from global destinations to mainland cities. There has been a rush to secure points within the daily quota of about 60,000 people allowed to travel north from the financial hub, including 50,000 across the land border separating the two, despite officials promised that capacity would increase over time.

As for the resumption of visits by foreigners and business people to China, the requirement for a negative PCR test and the near-common practices such as wearing a mask could play a role of deterrence in the near term. But for the first time since the virus emerged in Wuhan in late 2019, China has rejoined the rest of the world.

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