China will lift Covid-19 quarantine requirements for passengers arriving from abroad starting Jan. 8, the National Health Commission said in the latest easing of the country’s once stringent virus measures.
Arriving passengers must now quarantine in a hotel for 5 days and then at home for 3 days. At one stage, a three-week quarantine was required.
The lifting of this measure is a big step towards fully resuming travel to countries around the world, which the government has been cutting back to prevent the spread of the virus.
The restrictions prevented most Chinese from traveling abroad, restricted face-to-face diplomatic exchanges, and significantly reduced the number of foreigners staying in China for work or study.
China’s health commission said it would take steps to make it easier for some foreigners to enter the country, although tourists were not included. China will be gradually allowed to travel abroad for tourism purposes.
People entering China must test negative for the virus 48 hours before departure, and passengers must wear protective masks on board, according to an online post by the Health Commission.
China abruptly lifted many of its pandemic restrictions earlier this month, sparking a widespread Covid outbreak that overwhelmed hospital emergency facilities and funeral homes.
The move followed a rare public outcry against restrictions that have hit the economy, put people out of work and forced restaurants and shops to close.
For more than two and a half years, Chinese authorities have implemented a strict zero-Covid approach that has become leader Xi Jinping’s signature policy.
The emergence of a rapidly spreading Omicron variant in late 2021 has made this strategy increasingly untenable, necessitating a broader lockdown that stunts growth and disrupts lives.