The Comprehensive Team for Joint Prevention and Control Mechanisms for COVID-19 under the State Council of the People's Republic of China announced 20 new measures on 11 November 2022 to reduce economic and social disruptions while maintaining strong epidemic prevention and control. One of the key adjustments is to ease requirements for inbound international travel.
Following the announcement, the Chinese embassies and consulates have adjusted pre-departure testing and HDC-code application requirements for China-bound travelers, as follows:
- Travelers will only be required to perform one nucleic acid test within 48 hours before their flight. Those who test negative shall continue to apply for an HDC-code through the in-charge Chinese embassies and consulates.
- Travelers taking transit flights through a third country may opt to take the nucleic acid test and apply for the HDC-code either in the departure country or in the transit country. They only need to ensure that their green health code is within its validity period when they board the China-bound flight in the transit country.
- Additional restrictions such as health observation and reporting requirements for travelers who have a history of COVID-19 infection or are close contacts of someone with COVID-19 have been removed.
In addition to the new testing policies for China-bound travelers, the new measures have removed the "circuit breaker" mechanism, under which China-bound flights were cancelled if an airline was found to carry a certain number of passengers who tested positive for COVID-19, in order to facilitate international travel.
The centralized quarantine period for China-bound travelers has been reduced from seven days to five days, followed by another three days of home-based health status monitoring (though if an international traveler has no place of residence in China, they may have to spend all eight days in a designated quarantine hotel).
In terms of local prevention measures, China has reclassified risk areas to be high or low risk only, meaning that the medium-risk category has been removed to reduce domestic travel restrictions. It will no longer track secondary close contacts of persons who test positive for COVID-19. The same quarantine timeframe (i.e., five + three days) for China-bound travelers also applies to close contacts of COVID-19 positive cases within China.
Overall, the new measures further reduce international and domestic travel restrictions. Nevertheless, multiple-entry business visas and tourist visas, which are desired by many international travelers, have not been resumed. Passport applications for Chinese citizens are still strictly limited to those with essential outbound travel needs, such as work, business, study and emergency family matters.
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Zora Mao is an associate in FenXun Partners. FenXun established a Joint Operation Office with Baker McKenzie in China as Baker McKenzie FenXun, which was approved by the Shanghai Justice Bureau in 2015.
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