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June 29, 2022

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China slashes quarantine time for overseas travelers by half

China yesterday slashed the quarantine time for inbound travelers by half in a major easing of one of the world’s strictest COVID-19 curbs, which have deterred travel in and out of the country since 2020.

Quarantine at centralized facilities has been cut to seven days from 14, and subsequent at-home health monitoring has been reduced to three days from seven, the National Health Commission said.

The latest guidelines from the health authority also eased quarantine requirements for close contacts of people who have tested positive for the new coronavirus.

According to the protocol released yesterday, individuals deemed to have had close contact with COVID-19 close contacts will face seven days of medical observation under home quarantine, instead of seven days of medical observation in isolation at designated sites.

Cheng Youquan, deputy director of the NHC’s supervision bureau, also asked regions that impose tough quarantine measures on people from pandemic-stricken cities such as Shanghai to adjust their policies at yesterday’s press conference organized by the Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism of the State Council.

China closed off its international borders in March 2020 and the number of international flights is still tightly restricted in an effort to tamp down “imported” virus cases as the pandemic rages elsewhere.

Since then overseas arrivals have faced weeks of strict monitoring and quarantine in hotels and designated centers.

China has cautiously eased its COVID curbs on cross-border travelers in recent months, with health officials saying the shorter incubation period of the Omicron variant allows for an adjustment of quarantine periods.

Since April, a growing number of “pilot” cities have already slashed mandatory centralized quarantine for overseas travelers to 10 days, with Beijing reducing quarantine as well last month.

However, scarce international flights are frequently subject to cancelations, as China operates a “circuit breaker” system where routes are temporarily canceled if enough positive passengers are discovered on board.

China, last month, also removed some COVID-19 test requirements for people flying in from countries such as the United States.

Earlier this month, China marginally relaxed visa curbs to allow foreigners to visit direct family members and foreign permanent residents in China.

The new quarantine rules were welcomed by American and British business lobby groups in China.

“It will hopefully work towards increasing business exchanges and stemming the outflow of international talent, some of whom are coming up to having had three years of separation from family and friends overseas,” the British Chamber of Commerce in China said.

“We believe that today’s announcement will be welcomed by the American business community,” the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai said on its official WeChat account.

The quarantine adjustment will make it easier for companies to bring staff to China, and for Chinese companies and their executives to visit the US, AmCham said.

China’s aviation regulator said earlier it had been in touch with some countries to steadily increase the number of flights in the second half of 2022.

Beijing and Shanghai reported no new local COVID infections yesterday, the first time both cities were in the clear simultaneously since late February, after months of fighting their worst-ever outbreaks.

The milestone for the two cities came after their daily caseloads dropped to single digits over the past week, allowing Shanghai to gradually resume eating in at restaurants and Beijing to reopen some leisure venues including the Universal Beijing Resort.

Shanghai Communist Party chief Li Qiang declared on Saturday that authorities had “won the war to defend Shanghai” against COVID-19.


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