China has announced the biggest easing of restrictions imposed on international passengers since it closed its borders in March 2020 to curb the pandemic. As reported on Tuesday by the state television network CCTV, the State Council, the nation’s largest executive body, has updated its coronavirus prevention and control protocol with the publication of new guidelines, including reducing the Quarantine after entry into the country for 14 to seven days. The measure, although strict compared to the reopening that most of its neighbors in the region have experienced for months, has been received as a ray of hope by the international community residing in the Asian giant, as it represents progress towards a relaxation of the “zero covid” policy imposed by the authorities since the outbreak of the health crisis.
According to the text published this Tuesday by the Council of State, China will require all those from abroad to quarantine for seven days in one of its centralized facilities —which is paid by the traveler—, in addition to three days of health monitoring once once it arrives at your home (what the health authorities call “7+3″). Until now, isolation was at least 14 days in a hotel and seven at home, reaching a total of 28 days in some cities.
The Chamber of Commerce of the European Union in China has received the news positively, although it remains cautious, waiting to see if the local governments really readjust their quarantine requirements. Beijing, for example, had already officially shortened the isolation period, although in practice it did not mean any change because international flights to the Chinese capital are diverted to nearby Tianjin, where the quarantine continues for 14 days.
China is the only major economy on the planet that remains firm in applying a strict zero tolerance policy against the coronavirus, which implies massive PCR campaigns wherever cases are detected, the isolation of patients in centralized facilities, the complete closure to tourism and the limitation of international flights. This Tuesday, however, it has been reported that more lax protocols will also be applied to close contacts of people infected with covid-19, who will be able to isolate themselves for a week at their residence, instead of being transferred to a quarantine center designed for this purpose as it happened until now.
This relaxation comes a day after great confusion was generated among the inhabitants of Beijing after the publication of a local government report announcing that the zero covid strategy will be maintained “for five more years”, a mention that It disappeared from all official media shortly after, when it was already flooding Chinese social networks, where messages of discontent were widespread. Although what happened has not been explained, and China has shown that it is not in a hurry to coexist with the virus, some analysts believe that it could have been a typo, since the full text refers to economic policies for the next five years.
Since the outbreaks in Shanghai and Beijing were declared under control (this Tuesday is the first day since the end of February that neither of the two cities registers new cases), the Government has sent signals that border controls could relax for the year that is coming, once the 20th Congress of the Communist Party has passed, which will be held in the autumn, and in which the appointment of Xi Jinping for a third term is planned.
In mid-June, it was announced that an invitation letter issued by a provincial authority is no longer necessary to apply for a work visa, a requirement that was imposed in 2020 and that has made it impossible for many of the professionals who were then stranded to return. in other countries. In addition, the aviation authorities have assured that the number of flights will increase during this summer. The airlines have suffered enormous pressure from the Chinese authorities, as Beijing penalizes those whose flights register positive cases upon arrival. This has caused that, depending on the number of infections and recidivism, many see their operations suspended for months. According to data from the Civil Aviation Administration of China, in 2021, air connections with foreign countries barely exceeded three million, a drop of 97% compared to the 139 million trips that were made in 2019.
In addition to the prohibitive price of the flights (only the one-way ticket from Spain is several thousand euros) and the quarantines, another of the obstacles that travelers face is that, if there is a direct connection between the country and China, You cannot travel with a stopover. The Chinese airlines Hainan Airlines and AirChina announced this month the resumption of their direct flights between China and Spain, paralyzed for months and which have greatly hindered connections between the two nations, while the Spanish Iberia also has the permission of the aviation authorities Chinese to resume the routes that link Shanghai and Hangzhou with Madrid.
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