In what feels like the end of a long era of pandemic-induced travel restrictions, Mainland China will be scrapping the quarantine requirement for international arrivals as of January 8, 2023.
Before the excitement sets in, note that travel to China will still be significantly limited in the near future, as tourist visas are still not being issued.
However, ending the quarantine for international arrivals is certainly a step in the right direction, and signals a full reopening to international tourists sooner rather than later in 2023.
As of January 8, 2023, a quarantine upon arrival will no longer be required. Up until this point, China has been gradually loosening its quarantine policy from three weeks at a quarantine hotel to just five days now before being scrapped altogether.
Testing requirements are also loosening, with only a negative PCR test required within 48 hours of departure and no testing upon arrival.
However, unlike most major countries who have reopened their borders in 2022, the abolition of the quarantine requirement does not coincide with a reopening to foreign tourists in China’s case.
That’s because tourist visas are still not being issued and pre-March 2020 tourist visas remain suspended, so only travellers headed to China for the purposes of work, business, study, or visiting family can benefit from the relaxed travel restrictions for the time being.
Before considering when China will open their borders for international tourism, let’s look at all the factors leading to China eliminating their quarantine policy for international arrivals.
Up until this point, China had what was widely regarded as the strictest “zero-COVID” policies on the planet. Rigorous testing was required before departure and upon arrival, as well every few days during the mandatory hotel quarantine period upon arrival.
Within the country, an app was required to track your COVID-19 status at all times and individuals were required to show their status when entering any kind of establishment. In addition, China also enforced strict lockdowns whenever a COVID-19 outbreak was taking place throughout a region.
Recently, mass protests sprung up in favour of ending lockdowns and returning to normal life, resulting in the abolition of the zero-COVID policy. In turn, COVID-19 cases have skyrocketed across the country.
Indeed, as with all countries who have been hit with the Omicron variant, China now inevitably must undergo a period of very high case counts before things eventually settle down as the population gains immunity.
(I myself had considered making a trip to visit family in Beijing for the upcoming Chinese New Year, but decided to put it off due to the rather chaotic situation on the ground.)
I’d imagine a further loosening of China’s borders and the resumption of tourist visa issuance is only likely when COVID-19 cases either begin to plateau or decline, and it’s hard to say when exactly that may happen.
At the same time, China’s abolition of the quarantine requirement also means that China’s hundreds of millions of outbound tourists – who have largely been confined to domestic travel for almost three years – are now able to travel internationally once again without having to undergo quarantine upon returning home.
China has scrapped what was almost certainly the world’s last remaining quarantine-on-arrival policy for international travellers as of January 8, 2023.
As of this date, a PCR test within 48 hours of departure is the only remaining requirement for those entering the country for the purposes of family, work, business, or education, as well as for returning Chinese nationals.
At the moment, tourist visa applications remain closed, but we are certainly headed in that direction given that China is no longer pursuing a zero-COVID strategy, and I’d fully expect tourist visas to resume sometime in 2023.
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