On Monday, December 26, the Chinese government announced that from January 8, 2023, the country will lift quarantine requirements for all international arrivals — this is the most significant step in moving away from the zero tolerance policy for COVID-19.
However, little has changed for tourists. Borders will remain closed to foreigners except for a limited number of business or family visits. Although the government signaled on Monday that positive developments could be expected here too.
For the many Chinese citizens abroad who could not return or did not want to endure a long quarantine, this news means that they are finally get home.
Those in China are also celebrating and looking forward to outbound trips. Most of them have not left the country for several years and are now crashing online booking sites to plan their long-awaited vacation.
Search for popular destinations increased tenfold within half an hour of the January 8 news, with many Chinese searching outbound group tours for the New Year holidays according to the Chinese calendar — this time it will be celebrated at the end of January.
Top destinations: Macau, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, South Korea, US and UK.
However, loosening border controls is causing concern for some — China continues to actively fight the worst wave of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.
The country's morgues and crematoria are overcrowded despite a lack of reports. The number of cases has skyrocketed since China abandoned its zero-tolerance policy for the coronavirus, with empty streets and overcrowded hospital wards.
Late last week, global news agencies reported that nearly 250 million people in China may have contracted the virus in the first 20 days of December, roughly 18% of China's 1.4 billion citizens.
Overseas travel destinations are also not particularly happy about the potential influx of tourists from China. Officials from the Lombardy region in northern Italy have asked Milan's Malpensa Airport — one of the largest international airports in the country — conduct PCR tests on all arrivals from China from today until the end of January.
India, which borders China, has required travelers from China and several other countries to provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival. And Japan announced on Friday that travelers from mainland China or those who have been in China within the past week will be tested upon entry. In both India and Japan, those who test positive upon arrival will be placed in mandatory quarantine.