In a fortuitous turn for the travel and hospitality industry, travelers entering China will no longer need to quarantine upon arrival on the mainland from Jan. 8, 2023. Conversely, Chinese travelers entering the U.S. will be mandated to show proof of a negative COVID test result.
The news should be a shot in the arm for both domestic Chinese hotels and hotels outside mainland China. There has been basically no travel inbound or outbound for the past three years.
Consider first, the U.S., where Chinese travelers coming to the country on average spend more than 50% more than other travelers. A total of 2.9 million Chinese travelers visited the U.S. in 2019, according to the U.S. Travel Association.
On Marriott International’s most recent earnings call, CEO Tony Capuano referred to China as the market it is “certainly seeing the most challenges in.” Perhaps, not so anymore as it eases its grip.
Stringent requirements on inbound travelers had been in place, which mandated five days of quarantine at a government-supervised facility followed by three days of home isolation. That restriction and one on the number of passengers on international flights will be scrapped from Jan. 8.
However, travelers entering China will still be required to show proof of a negative PCR test 48 hours before departure. While on flight, passengers will be required to wear face masks.
Passenger entry and departure at land and sea ports will be gradually resumed, while outbound travel of Chinese nationals will be restored “in an orderly manner.”
Authorities said they would “optimize” visa arrangements for international travelers looking to visit China for work and study and family visits. It is still, however, unclear if it includes tourist visas.
China’s management of COVID-19 will also be downgraded to Category B from the existing strict Category A, the National Health Commission said on Monday, as the virus becomes less deadly and gradually evolves into a common infection.
FRESH WAVE OF INFECTIONS
This comes as the nation is grappling to control a fresh wave of COVID diseases, with hospitals struggling to cope with the infection rates. There have been reports of overwhelmed hospitals and elderly people dying. The daily case counts and deaths is uncertain as officials have stopped releasing data. According to British health data company, Airfinity, China has been witnessing over a million infections and 5,000 deaths a day.
The Health Commission maintained that epidemic prevention and control protocols at significant institutions, like elderly care homes, will be strengthened.
If an outbreak becomes severe, the institution will implement “closed management” to curb the spread of infections.
China will also ramp up vaccination rates among the elderly and promote second doses among those at high risk of severe illness.
China is the last major economy to ease its COVID restrictions and treat it as an endemic. Its zero-COVID approach has slowed the country to its lowest growth rate in almost half a century, crippling global supply chains and trade.
COMING TO AMERICA
The outbreak of COVID infection in China has the U.S. on guard. Travelers flying to the U.S. from China (including Hong Kong and Macau) will need to get a test, either a PCR test or an antigen self-test administered through a telehealth service, done two days before the date of departure and present proof of negative test to the airline before boarding. Passengers who test positive more than 10 days before their flight will have to provide documentation of their recovery instead of a negative test result.
The requirement is also applicable to passengers flying through third-country gateways, such as Toronto, Vancouver and Seoul.
The U.S. last week pointed to a lack of “adequate and transparent” COVID data in China fueling the decision to mandate COVID tests from Jan. 5, 2023. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this was required “to help slow the spread of the virus as we work to identify… any potential new variants that may emerge.”
Several other countries, including Japan, India, Italy and Taiwan, have also announced mandatory tests for travelers from China.
India will require a negative COVID test from visitors flying from China, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Thailand, with passengers put into quarantine if they test positive or display COVID symptoms.
Passengers arriving from mainland China into Taiwan and Japan will have to undergo tests.
The UK and Australia have said they haven’t imposed any new rules for visitors from China.