China lifted quarantine requirements for inbound travelers on Sunday, ending nearly three years of self-isolation as the country battles a surge in COVID cases.
The first to arrive expressed relief at not having to undergo the stringent quarantine that was part of life in COVID-free China.
Over the next eight weeks, more than 400,000 people were expected to head north from Hong Kong, where its border with mainland China has been closed for years.
Beijing last month began a dramatic dismantling of its hardline zero-COVID strategy, which had implemented mandatory quarantines and punitive lockdowns.
The policy had a huge impact on the world’s second-largest economy, sparking a backlash across society and leading to nationwide protests just before it was eased.
At Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport, a woman surnamed Pang told AFP on Sunday she was thrilled with the ease of travel.
“I think it’s really good that the policy has changed. It’s really humane,” she told AFP.
“I think this is a necessary step. COVID has now normalized and everything will be smooth after this hurdle,” she said.
Inquiries to popular travel websites surged as Chinese people rushed to plan overseas trips after Chinese authorities announced last month that they would end the quarantine.
But the expected surge in visitors has led more than a dozen countries to impose mandatory COVID tests on travelers from the world’s most populous countries, battling the worst outbreak in history. increase.
China has said it is “unacceptable” to impose travel restrictions imposed by other countries, even as it continues to curb travel to foreign tourists and students.
The COVID epidemic in China is expected to worsen as we enter the Lunar New Year holidays this month. During this period, millions of people are expected to move from hard-hit big cities to the countryside to visit vulnerable elderly relatives.
And Beijing has moved to curb criticism of its chaotic road from coronavirus zero, with the Twitter-like Weibo service recently banning 1,120 accounts for “attacking experts and academics.” He said he did.
“We just walked out”
At Beijing airport on Sunday, the barrier that once separated international and domestic arrivals was removed, as were the “big whites.” Staff in hazmat suits have long been a part of life in COVID-free China.
A woman who came to meet a friend who had just arrived from Hong Kong said the first thing to do was eat.
“I’m very happy. It’s been a while since we met,” Wu, 20, told AFP.
“They are studying over there and we can meet in person in Beijing…a year has passed,” she added.
At Shanghai airport, a man named Yang, who had arrived from the United States, said he was unaware that the rules had changed.
“I had no idea,” he told AFP.
“If it turns out that we only need to quarantine for two days, we don’t have to quarantine at all, and we don’t have to do any paperwork, I think I will be very lucky. I walked like that,’ he added.
“I’m very happy that we don’t have to quarantine anymore,” another woman told AFP.
“Who wants to go into quarantine? Nobody.”
Hong Kong Open
Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous city in southern China, has seen a flood of tourists crossing the border as travel restrictions with mainland China have eased.
Hong Kong’s recession-hit economy desperately needs a reunion with its biggest source of growth, and families look forward to a Lunar New Year reunion.
About 410,000 people in Hong Kong were planning to travel north within the next two months, while about 7,000 on the mainland planned to travel south on Sunday, according to official data.
At the Lukmazhou checkpoint near Shenzhen, Zheng, a graduate student from mainland China, told AFP he was happy to pass the restrictions.
“I would be happy if I didn’t have to be quarantined. It was so unbearable,” Zeng told AFP.
https://www.voanews.com/a/china-ends-quarantine-for-overseas-travelers-/6909133.html China ends quarantine for international travelers