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China to Open Up for Overseas Travelers in January

The last significant departure from the nation’s zero-Covid policy will take place in China on January 8, according to officials.

This will reopen the country to people with employment and study permits, as well as those who want to visit relatives after nearly three years of closed borders.

Chinese nationals will find it simpler to go abroad, the immigration authority announced on Tuesday.

Since the limits were loosened, Covid has aggressively spread. As a result, according to reports, hospitals are overburdened, and senior citizens are dying. 

Officials have ceased disclosing Covid data. Therefore it is now unknown what the exact toll is in terms of daily case counts and fatalities. Last week, Beijing reported a few deaths and around 4,000 new Covid infections per day.

It said on Sunday that it would no longer post case numbers. However, according to Airfinity, a British health data company, China has over a million infections and 5,000 fatalities daily.

Following three years of lockdowns, closed borders, and required quarantines for Covid cases and contacts, China is the final major economy in the world to transition to “living with Covid.”

The so-called zero-Covid strategy hurt the economy and made people tired of rules and tests that were repeated.

President Xi Jinping was targeted in rare public protests in November due to public discontent with the program, and just a few weeks later, the government repealed the Covid regulations.

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Downgraded to Class B

Closed borders are still the fundamental limitation. Since March 2020, everybody entering China has been subject to a requirement that they spend up to three weeks at a time in a state facility’s mandatory quarantine. Recently, it was shortened to five days.

On the other hand, Covid was formally reduced to a Class B infectious disease on January 8, according to a statement by the National Health Commission on Monday.

Quarantine would therefore be eliminated, while incoming travelers would still need to submit to a PCR test. Additionally, there would be no daily flight restriction allowed into China.

In addition, the authorities promised to “optimize” visa procedures for foreigners planning to visit, visit family, or study in China.

Uncertainty surrounds whether tourist visas fall under this category, but officials announced the launch of a test program for international cruise ships.

The immigration administration stated on Tuesday that Chinese people who want to apply for passports to travel overseas would be permitted to do so as of January 8.

According to Statista, 155 million Chinese tourists traveled abroad in 2019 before the pandemic. In 2020, its number fell to 20 million. Many Chinese people who will now be free to travel overseas once more have welcomed the new regulations.

Within hours after the announcement, the biggest online travel businesses in the nation reported an increase in traffic. During the Chinese New Year, which starts on January 22, many individuals expect to visit family and loved ones.

Opinion on Sudden China Freedom

Many people have, however, expressed their rage at the unexpected independence after years of restrictions, according to the BBC.

“I’m happy about it but also speechless. If we’re doing this [reopening] anyway – why did I have to suffer all the daily Covid tests and lockdowns this year?” Rachel Liu, who lives in Shanghai, said. 

She claimed that even though her family had been under lockdown for three months starting in April, almost everyone had recently had the illness.

Furthermore, she stated that last week, all her family members who reside in three different cities—Xi’an, Shanghai, and Hangzhou—including her parents, grandparents, and partner—all developed fevers.

As Covid cases surge in China, many people have also expressed a fear online about borders reopening.

“Why can’t we wait until this wave passes to open up? The medical workers are already worn out, and old people won’t survive two infections in one month,” one top-liked comment on Weibo stated. 

People in areas like Beijing and Shanghai, where the winters are chilly, claim to be running low on cold and flu medications.

It’s thought that because crematoriums are overloaded, hundreds of deaths may not be registered.

The Paxlovid tablets from Pfizer will reportedly be made available in Beijing’s capital city in an effort to lessen the severity of infections and relieve hospital overcrowding. However, when The Global Times contacted health centers on Monday, they reported that the medication had yet to arrive.

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Calling to Save Lives

President Xi made his first comments on the revisions on Monday, urging officials to take “feasible” action to save lives.

He was quoted by state media as saying that a new situation with pandemic control faced the nation and required a more focused reaction.

Xi is in trouble due to China’s about-face on the pandemic management strategy. Zero-Covid, which many claimed severely restricted people’s lifestyles and destroyed the economy, was the brainchild of this individual.

However, analysts claim that since he gave it up, he now must take responsibility for the enormous wave of illnesses and hospital admissions. Why the nation was not more ready has been questioned by many.

Opinions expressed by Net Worth contributors are their own.