Chinese rush to renew passports as COVID border restrictions are lifted

Chinese rush to renew passports as COVID border restrictions are lifted
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  • China lifted quarantine for visitors on Sunday
  • The latest move in easing that has allowed the virus to run free
  • Several nations require COVID tests for travelers from China
  • Chinese stocks, yuan rally on growth hopes

BEIJING, Jan 9 (Reuters) – People lined up outside immigration offices in Beijing on Monday, eager to renew their passports after China lifted COVID border controls that had largely prevented its 1,400 from traveling. million residents for three years.

sunday reopening It is one of the latest steps in China’s dismantling of its “zero-COVID” regime, which began last month after historic protests against restrictions that kept the virus at bay but caused widespread frustration among its people.

Waiting to renew his passport in a line of more than 100 people in China’s capital, 67-year-old retiree Yang Jianguo told Reuters he planned to travel to the United States to see his daughter for the first time in three years.

“She got married last year, but she had to postpone the ceremony because we couldn’t attend. We are very happy to go now,” said Yang, standing next to his wife.

China’s money and stock markets strengthened on Monday as investors bet the reopening could help revitalize a $17 trillion economy suffering its slowest growth in nearly half a century.

Beijing’s move to remove quarantine requirements for visitors is expected to boost travel abroad, as residents won’t face those restrictions when they return.

But flights are tight and several nations are requiring negative tests for visitors to China, seeking to contain an outbreak that is overwhelming many of China’s hospitals and crematoriums. China also requires negative COVID tests before travelers depart.

China’s top health officials and state media have repeatedly said that COVID infections are peaking across the country and downplaying the threat the disease now poses.

“Life is moving forward again!” the Communist Party’s official newspaper, the People’s Daily, wrote in an editorial praising the government’s virus policies late on Sunday, which it said had gone from “preventing infections.” to “prevent serious diseases”.

“Today, the virus is weak, we are stronger.”

Officially, China has reported just 5,272 COVID-related deaths as of January 1. 8, one of the lowest rates of death from the infection in the world.

But the World Health Organization has said China is underestimating the scale of the outbreak and international virus experts estimate that more than a million people in the country could die from the disease this year.

Ignoring those gloomy forecasts, Asian stocks rose to a five-month high on Monday, while China’s yuan firmed at its strongest level against the dollar since mid-August.

China First Class Index (.CSI300) gained 0.7%, while the Shanghai Composite Index (.SSEC) rose 0.5% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index (.HSI) rose 1.6%.

“The end of the zero COVID policy will have a big positive impact on domestic spending,” Ralph Hamers, chief executive of UBS group, said at the Swiss bank’s annual Greater China conference on Monday.

“We believe there are many opportunities for those committed to investing in China.”


“It’s a great relief to be able to go back to normal… to go back to China, get off the plane, take a taxi and go home,” Michael Harrold, 61, a style editor in Beijing, told Reuters. . at the Beijing Capital International Airport on Sunday after he arrived on a flight from Warsaw.

Harrold said he had been anticipating having to self-quarantine and do several rounds of tests upon his return when he left for Europe for the Christmas holidays in early December.

State broadcaster CCTV reported on Sunday that direct flights from South Korea to China were nearly sold out. The report quickly became the most read article on the Chinese social networking site Weibo.

In the near term, an increase in traveler demand will be hampered by the limited number of flights to and from China, which are currently at a small fraction of pre-COVID levels.

Data from Flight Master showed that on Sunday, China had a total of 245 inbound and outbound international flights, compared with 2,546 flights on the same day in 2019, a drop of 91%.

Korean Air said earlier this month that it would halt a plan to increase flights to China due to Seoul’s cautious stance toward Chinese travelers. South Korea, like many other countries, now requires travelers from China, Macau, and Hong Kong to provide negative COVID test results prior to departure.

Taiwan, which began testing arrivals from China on January 1. 1, said Monday that nearly 20% of those tested so far have tested positive for COVID.

China’s domestic tourism revenue in 2023 is expected to recover to 70-75% of pre-COVID-19 levels, but the amount of inbound and outbound travel is expected to recover to only 30-40% of pre-COVID-19 levels this year, China News reported. on Sunday

Reporting by Yew Lun Tian, ​​Liz Lee, Josh Arslan, Eduardo Baptista and Sophie Yu in Beijing; Ben Blanchard in Taipei; Written by John Geddie; Edited by Raju Gopalakrishnan

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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