The American Chamber of Commerce in China has secured approval to fly US executives back to China.
A source from AmCham China said almost 200 people had signed up for a San Francisco to Beijing charter flight since Monday – well over the 120 needed to make it happen.
The chamber said that only those who were employed by member companies who had received a letter of invitation, known as a PU letter, would be allowed on the flight. They also must obtain a valid re-entry visa.
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Family members will be permitted to travel with the employee, but all passengers will be required to pass a Covid-19 test before boarding and must enter quarantine upon arrival.
The price of the flight operated by United Airlines is expected to be “competitive with current commercial rates”, with economy class seats starting at US$4,300 and business class seats priced starting at US$10,000.
AmCham China estimates that between 5,000 and 10,000 members of the US business community are currently stuck overseas.
The European chamber’s Shanghai chapter said 56 per cent of companies have staff stuck overseas.
The AmCham China source, who requested anonymity as he was not authorised to speak on the matter, said some of those who signed up to the flight may not be eligible, as the requirements in China are “quite strict”.
“One of main barriers to return is the requirement to obtain an invitation, or PU, letter and to get another visa to re-enter, even if you hold a valid visa already,” he added.
AmCham China said it obtained the initial green light from Beijing last Friday, but pushed the departure back from August 28 to September 12 to ensure that all passengers are able to obtain their “re-entry visa and pre-departure Covid-19 test”.
It also said that it was discussing plans to ease quarantine restrictions, adding “the Beijing authorities are still working out the details”.
“The Beijing government still needs to square away some details before they can issue final approval. If this first charter flight successfully goes as planned, we would consider scheduling more in the future,” said the source.
The German Chamber of Commerce has previously been able to arrange a charter flight for members, which landed in Tianjin in late May.
Around 950,000 foreigners in China have permission to work in China, according to state news agency Xinhua.
But large numbers left the country at the start of the Covid-19 outbreak, most of whom have been unable to return since entry was suspended in March to prevent Covid-19 cases being imported from abroad.
Andrew Scott, manager of AmCham China’s government affairs and policy department published an article on the chamber’s website last month saying that members and their families have had to place their lives on hold indefinitely.
He added that some families had also been separated from their pets, which one employee with Dow Chemical described as “devastating”. has not indicated when it will loosen its entry restrictions, as Covid-19 is still spreading in the US and many other countries.
At present the US also has entry restrictions on people who have been in China, Europe and other designated countries in the past 14 days.
Meanwhile, the European Union has started easing restrictions, and says it will allow Chinese nationals to enter once China reciprocates by reopening to Europeans.
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This article Coronavirus: American Chamber of Commerce gets permission to fly business executives to China first appeared on South China Morning Post