December 23, 2022
SINGAPORE – China plans to cut quarantine requirements for overseas travellers in January, according to people familiar with the matter, as the country dismantles the last vestiges of its Covid Zero policy.
Officials are considering a “0+3” policy, where the requirement to spend time in a quarantine hotel or isolation facility would be scrapped, and arrivals into the country are instead subject to three days of monitoring, one of the people said, asking not to be identified as the discussions are not public.
It is not immediately clear what form that monitoring may take, or if it would require quarantining at home. Details of the plan are still being finalised, including when it will start in January.
China currently requires travellers to quarantine at a hotel or other facility for at least the first five days after arrival. Those with a residence in the city where they enter China are then allowed to spend the next three days at home, though are barred from leaving that location.
That regime, imposed when infections inside China were suppressed by the mass testing and harsh lockdowns that were the hallmarks of Covid Zero, has become increasingly irrelevant after authorities began taking rapid steps to reopen the economy. After trying to eliminate Covid-19 for three years, China is now letting it circulate widely, dismantling the vast network of restrictions almost overnight. The abrupt move has resulted in an explosion in cases and reports of uncounted Covid-19 deaths are mounting.
The National Health Commission did not respond to requests for comment.
Last week, the South China Morning Post reported that the border between Hong Kong and mainland China was set to fully reopen early next month, suggesting authorities in Beijing were preparing to reduce restrictions on travel. Hong Kong’s Under Secretary for Transport and Logistics Liu Chun-san said on Friday that the city was preparing to resume its high-speed rail services with mainland China.
The world’s second-largest economy has been largely cut off from the rest of the world since early 2020, when China first imposed a blanket ban on overseas travellers. While that ban has been incrementally relaxed since then, the rules have remained restrictive enough to discourage the vast majority of travelers. Mandatory quarantine has also kept Chinese at home, choking off what was a lucrative source of tourists for many parts of the world pre-pandemic.
Since late November, however, when thousands protested against Covid Zero’s harsh measures in cities across China, the government has quickly rolled back many of its pandemic-related restrictions. That abrupt reversal has confused experts and triggered concerns that a still relatively low rate of vaccination among the elderly will lead to high numbers of deaths. BLOOMBERG