China to end Covid quarantine for international arrivals from 8 January
China will scrap mandatory quarantine requirements for inbound travellers from 8 January, in one of the major steps towards effectively reopening the country to visitors.
After three years of strict restrictions under the "zero-Covid" policy, the change in strategy will reopen the country to those with work and study visas even as China reels under the worst wave of coronavirus infections.
China's management of Covid-19 will also be downgraded to the less strict Category B from the current top-level Category A, the National Health Commission said on Monday.
Despite the communist government's recent abrupt policy U-turn on curbs, strict requirements on inbound travellers, including five days of mandatory quarantine at a government-supervised facility and three more of isolation at home, remained in place.
Quarantine restrictions on international flights will be removed from the second week of January, however, travellers entering the country will have to undergo RT-PCR testing 48 hours before departure.
Arrangements for foreigners to come to China, such as for work and business will be improved and the necessary visas will also be facilitated to ensure a gradual resumption of entry and exit at sea and land ports. The outbound travel of Chinese nationals will be restored "in an orderly manner", it added.
Flight tracking app VariFlight said its expected a robust rebound in flights to and from mainland China by May during the Labour Day holiday.
According to VariFlight data, international flights to and from China are at 8 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, Reuters reported,
The health commission said the government would strengthen epidemic prevention and control protocols at key institutions as overwhelmed hospital struggle with large numbers of infected patients. If an outbreak becomes severe, it said, the institution will adopt so-called "closed management" to prevent the spread of infections.
The country is aiming to increase the vaccination rate among the elderly and promote second doses among people at high risk of severe illness. Chinese authorities went door to door and offered senior citizens as much as £60 to have a Covid vaccination.
Meanwhile, Chinese president Xi Jinping said at present the Covid-19 prevention and control in China are facing a new situation and new tasks.
“We should launch the patriotic health campaign in a more targeted way... fortify a community line of defence for epidemic prevention and control, and effectively protect people’s lives, safety and health,” Mr Xi said.
China on Tuesday reported one new Covid-19 related death, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The death toll was increased to 5,242.