China Resuming International Travel: Countries Introducing New COVID Restrictions

China has resumed international travel opening its borders after nearly 3 years of hard lockdown. Countries around the world started to introduce new COVID-19 restrictions for travelers arriving from China.

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In the face of a dynamic pandemic landscape, countries across Europe have taken initiatives to impose stricter measures for travelers arriving from China.

Cyprus, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, and several other EU nations are among those that have implemented pre-departure testing requirements as part of their response to rising COVID-19 cases in the region.

To further reinforce public safety protocols on planes departing from or entering Chinese territories into European airspace; masks must be worn onboard flights along with enhanced cleaning procedures and crew member vaccinations, while random passengers may also be subject to tests upon arrival at airports followed by sequencing positive results these findings against new variants.

European countries with recently introduced COVID-19 measures on travelers from China

Italy took the lead among EU nations with last month's announcement of stringent measures for incoming travelers from China - requiring both COVID-19 antigen swabs and virus sequencing.

Spain was second to join the list of European countries taking proactive steps to protect citizens from COVID by requiring travelers arriving from China to present either a negative test result or vaccination proof.

France and Sweden, initially dismissive of the need to increase border control measures due to Covid-19, have since declared that passengers coming from China must undergo a negative PCR or antigen test prior to their boarding time.

The Netherlands has followed suit with similar testing requirements beginning on 10 January 2023.

To combat the effects of COVID-19, Belgium's mayor has demanded the reestablishment of health checks for tourists from China. In a bid to further prevent the spread of infection by new variants, the government declared its intention to examine all wastewater collected onboard flights hailing from China.

On 15 January, Cyprus also proactively took precautions by instituting a policy requiring all passengers arriving from mainland China to present negative test results.

The UK government has also reversed its stance and announced that all travelers returning from China to the UK must now have a pre-departure negative COVID-19 test. This requirement came into effect on 5 January 2023.

China has firmly denounced the targeted entry restrictions due to their lack of scientific soundness and unjustified nature. Mao Ning, a spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry, warned on Tuesday that they will take countermeasures if necessary.

Other countries which have introduced COVID restrictions for arrivals from China

In response to the spread of COVID-19, numerous non-European countries have also implemented extra safety protocols for those arriving from China.

Australia, Canada, India, Israel, Malaysia, Morocco, Qatar, South Korea, Taiwan, and the USA are among them.

Australia has made a decision to reverse its stance on testing incoming travelers, requiring Chinese nationals arriving in the nation to present a negative COVID-19 test taken within 48 hours of departure as of 5 January.

Ottawa has mandated that all travelers from China to Canada must provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test result within the 48 hours prior to their journey.

To ensure the safety of its citizens, Indian authorities have also implemented stringent measures for passengers arriving from China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and Thailand. Those travelers will be required to provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test result; otherwise, they may face quarantine should any symptoms appear or if their test results are positive.

Israel's Health Minister Aryeh Deri has introduced a rigorous set of COVID-19 testing regulations for travelers from China, as reported by the Times of Israel.

Malaysia goes even further with heightened tracking and surveillance processes – scanning all incoming passengers for fever symptoms, plus assessing aircraft wastewater from Chinese flights to detect traces of the virus.

In response to the continuing threat of COVID-19, Morocco has taken the necessary action to bar all people who are nationals of China from entering their borders as early as 3 January.

Qatar and Japan have each implemented strict protocols where those traveling from China must obtain a negative test result before they can travel, while Tokyo is utilizing additional testing on arrival and enforcing quarantines for positive cases - additionally limiting flights coming into their country.

South Korea, the Philippines, and other Southeast Asian nations are yet other countries taking proactive steps to protect their populations from COVID-19 by introducing rigorous testing procedures for travelers arriving from China.

On arrival, PCR tests are required in South Korea, as well as a negative test result or rapid antigen test before departure within 24 hours of flight time.

The Philippines is considering similar measures, such as heightened surveillance on symptomatic passengers coming into the country along with potential testing requirements, while elsewhere (Southeast Asia), Chinese nationals must adhere to standard regulations like all other travelers.

Foreign travelers heading to countries that require a negative pre-entry COVID test must have health insurance covering treatment for the virus when entering Thailand. 

Further, Malaysia and Thailand are taking proactive steps to contain the spread of this disease with their innovative testing method: analyzing airline wastewater samples.

In response to rising apprehension over the lack of data transparency from China, US government officials have initiated stringent measures beginning on 5 January.

All travelers aged two and above departing China, Hong Kong, or Macao must present a valid negative outcome from their COVID test taken within 48 hours prior to departure.

Fear of travelers arriving from China

After months of strict COVID policies, China has seen a sudden shift in rules that could prove troublesome. With the virus now largely unchecked and funeral parlors reporting inconsistent numbers to official statistics, the beginning of January saw a few reported Covid-related deaths.

The death figures put into question how well authorities there are able to manage an outbreak amid its population of 1.4 billion people who may not be abiding by all necessary measures for containing the virus' spread.

With Milan's Malpensa Airport conducting tests on passengers arriving from China, results unveiled a shocking statistic - nearly 50% of those tested were infected with the virus.

Rules for travelers going to China

As of 8th January, China lifted the quarantine requirement for inbound travelers and resumed issuing visas for residents planning overseas travel. However, negative PCR tests are still mandatory. 

As the world cautiously moves ahead, borders are slowly reopening to accommodate both domestic and foreign travel. This marks an important milestone in the Chinese strive towards normality after being largely closed since 2020.

Despite an increase in online searches for flights, Chinese residents and travel agencies remain cautious about the future of air travel. With no expectations to reach pre-pandemic levels anytime soon, this industry continues to face uncertainty about how it will recover from Covid-19's impact.

Katarzyna Żyła

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