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China to Drop Covid Quarantine for Incoming Travelers

China to Drop Covid Quarantine for Incoming Travelers

China on Monday announced that travelers from overseas would no longer be required to enter quarantine upon arrival, in one of the country’s most significant steps toward reopening since the coronavirus pandemic began.

From Jan. 8, incoming travelers will be required to show only a negative polymerase chain reaction, or P.C.R., test within 48 hours before departure, China’s National Health Commission said. Limitations on the number of incoming flights will also be eased.

The travel restrictions had isolated the world’s most populous country for nearly three years. Foreigners were essentially barred from entering China in 2020, and even when they were allowed back in months later, it was generally only for business or family reunions.

Even some Chinese nationals were unable to return home initially, and travelers allowed to enter were required to undergo extensive health screening and quarantine at their own expense — sometimes for as long as two months.

The announcement on Monday was the latest reversal in China’s “zero Covid” approach to the virus, which for years saw Beijing seek to eliminate infections. But the policy, which involved harsh and prolonged lockdowns of hundreds of millions of people, crushed the economy and stirred public discontent.

In November, after a fire led to the deaths of 10 people in the Xinjiang region, with many people suspecting that a Covid lockdown had hampered rescue efforts, protests erupted across the country. It was one of the boldest and most widespread outbreaks of dissent in decades. Within days, the government began loosening restrictions.

The easing of travel restrictions “basically signals the final end of zero Covid,” said Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow for global health at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations. Though China had relaxed many of its zero-Covid domestic policies this month — scrapping regular mandatory tests for urban residents and allowing home quarantine for the infected, for example — it had held on to its international limitations.

The new measures do not amount to China’s throwing open its borders, however. Many details remained unclear. The government has not said when it will resume issuing tourist visas — all such visas that were valid at the start of the pandemic have been…

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