China Reopening After COVID: Latest Developments and Business Advisory
(This article was last updated on September 21, 2023.)
Latest COVID-19 updates
- China authorizes the full resumption of international cruises. On September 19, the Ministry of Transport’s website released an announcement regarding the complete resumption of international cruise transportation. The announcement explicitly indicates that, following the successful pilot resumption of international cruise services at Shanghai and Shenzhen cruise ports, various government agencies have jointly decided to authorize the full reinstatement of international cruise operations at China’s domestic cruise terminals starting from the date of this announcement. Additionally, the circular emphasizes the need to enhance safety preparedness, pandemic prevention measures, and the regulation of the cruise transportation sector.
- China simplifies visa application process. In a bid to attract more international visitors, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) introduced a simplified visa application process on September 20, 2023. This revision primarily focuses on the visa application form and entails two significant changes. Firstly, applicants are now required to list their travel history from the past year instead of the previous five years. Secondly, the educational background section has been streamlined to only request the highest level of education achieved. These adjustments, according to MFA spokesperson Mao Ning, are intended to reduce the time applicants spend on visa forms and enhance overall efficiency. The MFA reaffirmed its dedication to fostering people-to-people interactions between China and other countries, emphasizing China’s commitment to high-quality development and global engagement.
- China removes COVID-19 antigen test requirements for inbound travelers. During a routine press conference held on August 28, 2023, Wang Wenbin, the spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry, revealed that starting August 30, 2023, people traveling to China will no longer need to complete COVID-19 PCR or antigen testing before entering the country. This marks the final removal of all remaining COVID-19 entry prerequisites, symbolizing a significant step toward travel normalization and the country’s reopening.
- China ends curbs on group tours for additional countries, benefiting key markets like the US, Japan, South Korea, and Australia. China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism has declared the lifting of pandemic-related constraints on group tours for multiple nations, encompassing prominent markets such as the United States, Japan, South Korea, and Australia. The announcement, made on August 10, 2023, with immediate effect, is anticipated to have a positive impact on international travel.
- China relaxes rules for on-arrival business visa. China’s Ministry of Public Security has announced new measures to ease business travel to China. These measures allow foreigners traveling for business or trade activities to apply for a business visa on arrival, eliminating the need to obtain one before traveling. To qualify, travelers must show a company invitation letter and supporting materials for activities such as business negotiations, exhibitions, and investments. Those needing multiple entries for commercial reasons can obtain a valid multiple-entry business visa within three years after their first entry.Additionally, foreigners applying for residence permits in China will now be allowed to keep their passports during the application process. Previously, applicants had to surrender their passports, which would be returned after processing, limiting international travel.
- China’s summer travel soars, with a boom in domestic and international tourism markets. The summer travel season in China is experiencing a significant boom, with airports and train stations bustling with vacationers, family visits, and students embarking on summer trips. In the first week of July, the number of flights surpassed the pre-COVID levels of 2019, with over 97,000 flights recorded. Daily passenger flights on July 7 exceeded 14,000, marking a new high for the year. Popular routes include flights between Beijing and Shanghai, as well as Shanghai and destinations in Guangdong province. China’s leading online travel agency, Trip.com Group, reported a surge in domestic and outbound flight bookings, with ticket prices for both increasing by 21% and 22% respectively compared to the previous year. Cross-border travel in China reached 34% of the 2019 level in the second quarter, with the number of international flights in June at 42% of pre-pandemic levels.
- China releases Dragon Boat Festival travel data. China’s recent reopening has witnessed some interesting developments, as indicated by the latest data from the three-day Dragon Boat Festival holiday (June 22-24).Compared to the same holiday period in the pre-pandemic year of 2019, more people ventured out for tourism activities, although their spending was lower, according to a report by Caixin.Data from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism reveals the following: a total of 106 million domestic tourist trips were recorded, marking a 32.3 percent year-on-year increase and a 12.8 percent rise compared to 2019. However, despite a 44.5 percent year-on-year growth in tourism revenue, reaching RMB 37.3 billion (US$5.15 billion), it fell short by 5.1 percent compared to the figures from 2019.In terms of overall travel during the Dragon Boat Festival, the Ministry of Transport reported the following numbers: rail, road, water, and air journeys witnessed an 89.1 percent year-on-year increase, but were still 22.8 percent lower than the levels seen in 2019.
- Dragon Boat Festival to see 100 million tourist trips. China’s consumption has been thriving during the traditional Dragon Boat Festival, surpassing pre-pandemic levels and making it the most vibrant holiday in terms of spending in the past five years. It is expected that over 100 million passenger trips will be made by tourists during this year’s holiday, generating approximately RMB 37 billion (US$5.15 billion) in tourism revenue. Data from the China Railway reveals that on June 22, 2023, a total of 16.2 million passenger trips are anticipated, with 10,868 trains in operation. This marks an 11.8 percent increase compared to 2019. The “travel rush” during the Dragon Boat Festival is projected to result in 71 million passenger trips by rail from June 21 to June 24, averaging 14.20 million trips per day.Traditional folk tourism has gained popularity among Chinese travelers during the festival, with cities renowned for “dragon boat racing,” like Foshan, attracting numerous tourists from other provinces and regions. Short-distance travel has also become a trending option for many during the three-day holiday.Online shopping platforms have witnessed a significant surge in tourism reservations for the festival, with a year-on-year increase of 600 percent. Outbound trips have increased twelvefold, with Southeast Asian countries being the preferred destinations. Experts anticipate that consumption will play a vital role in China’s economic growth, with final consumption accounting for over 60 percent of economic growth.Surge in Summer travel booking deals, for June 18 sales. As the summer vacation approaches, China’s domestic travel market has witnessed a significant increase in bookings during the recently concluded June 18 online shopping festival. Industry experts have observed a notable recovery and growth in sales of long-distance travel products.Traditionally, the sales event has been limited to June 18th. However, some companies have extended the period. Fliggy, the online travel branch of Alibaba Group, organized a promotional shopping event that started on May 18th and ended on June 20th. The platform experienced a 160 percent year-on-year surge in the number of travel product orders it received, and the number of consumers making purchases doubled compared to last year.According to a research report from Bank of Communications International, the amount of money they plan to spend on domestic travel is expected to surge by 169 percent compared to last year, reaching approximately 96 percent of the pre-pandemic level in 2019.Fliggy reported that during this year’s June 18 shopping spree, four retailers on their platform achieved transaction values exceeding 100 million yuan (US$13.9 million). Nearly 80 percent of retailers saw sales revenues increase by more than 50 percent compared to the previous year. In the case of domestic travel packages, the transaction value this year was more than six times higher than the value during the shopping festival period last year. Additionally, the number of travel agencies with transaction values exceeding 10 million yuan tripled compared to last year. The growth in sales of high-end products has been particularly robust. Luxury hotels, bed-and-breakfast stays, vouchers for business-class airplane seats, and high-end car rentals have been highly sought after by consumers.
- China’s CDC releases latest COVID-19 data, showing over 90 percent decrease in cases from peak.The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDC) has released the latest data on the state of COVID-19 cases in the country. Data from comprehensive monitoring shows that the number of new cases fluctuated between February and early April this year, and rose gradually in April before slowing again in May. Although the number of visits to fever clinics, severe cases, and deaths rose slightly in May, the overall number fell and remains considerably lower than the peak recorded at the end of 2022.From May 1 to 31, there were a total of 2,777 new COVID-19 cases and 164 deaths. The average age of the people who had passed away was 79.3 years, and over 90 percent had underlying diseases.The majority of cases were a result of the XBB strain and its sub-variants, with the proportion increasing slightly from 84.6 percent between May 1 and 7 to 92.4 percent from May 22 to May 28.The number of visits to fever clinics across the Chinese mainland reached a peak of 2.867 million on December 23, 2022, and then continued to decline. The number of visits increased between February 24 and April 6 before plateauing and decreasing again over a period of two weeks. By April 27, the number of visits stood at 221,000, a drop of 92.3 percent from the peak.
- The World Bank raises China’s growth forecast to 5.6 percent. The World Bank has projected a 5.6 percent growth for China’s economy this year, showing an increase of 1.3 percentage points from its previous forecast in January. In contrast, the bank has revised growth projections for most economies due to concerns over global growth and high-interest rates.This outlook for China is even greater than the projection of the International Monetary Fund in April, which predicted the country’s growth to remain at 5.2 percent amidst a challenging global economic recovery.Indeed, according to the World Bank’s Global Economic Prospects report released on Tuesday, China’s economic activity rebounded in early 2023. This recovery was driven by the country’s effective measures in response to COVID-19, leading to increased consumer spending, particularly in the domestic services sector.
China introduces its inaugural four-valent Covid vaccine. Residents in Beijing and various other Chinese cities can now receive China’s inaugural Covid-19 vaccine designed to combat four different strains of the virus. This move comes as China accelerates its vaccination campaign to address a surging wave of infections. The vaccine, named SCTV01E, is a recombinant protein vaccine developed by Sinocelltech Group Ltd, a pharmaceutical company based in Beijing. The SCTV01E vaccine is currently being administered at multiple vaccination centers in Beijing, as stated in the report. Local media has also reported that other cities such as Hangzhou, Wenzhou, and Wenling, located in the Zhejiang province in eastern China, have begun the distribution of this vaccine.
China’s post-reopening COVID-19 wave to reach its peak in June. According to official media reports, a well-known expert in infectious diseases stated that the second wave of COVID-19 currently affecting China after the reopening of the country may reach its highest point in June. The expert, Zhong Nanshan, who is the director of the National Clinical Research Center for Respiratory Disease, made this prediction during a forum on May 22, 2023. Zhong explained that the wave of infections was triggered by the rapid spread of the omicron subvariant XBB, which is also affecting other parts of the world. These details were reported by Nanfang Daily, the official newspaper of the Guangdong provincial committee of the Communist Party of China.
- Domestic passenger air travel recovers to pre-pandemic levels in April, according to CAAC.
Data released by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) shows that domestic passenger air travel recovered to pre-pandemic levels in April 2023. That month, the industry transported a total of 50.275 million passengers, a year-on-year increase of 537.9 percent. On domestic routes, the volume of passengers exceeded 2019 levels by 3.4 percent.
The efficiency of aircraft carriers also improved, with the daily utilization rate of aircraft reaching 8.2 hours, an increase of 6 hours from the previous year.
Meanwhile, air cargo recovered to 90.6 percent of 2019 levels, with a total of 545,000 tons of cargo and mail transported in April, a year-on-year increase of 29.5 percent.
- China to reintroduce fast-lane services from May 15. Starting May 15th, 2023, China will reintroduce fast-lane services for various types of travelers entering and leaving the Mainland to speed up border inspection and facilitate travel between regions, which is expected to boost the economy. The National Immigration Administration’s statement outlined the eligible travelers, including Chinese citizens with passports or special permits to travel to Hong Kong, Macao, or Taiwan, foreign passport holders, and individuals with certain residence permits in China. This move fully reinstates the fast-lane services that were available before the pandemic. Mainland tour groups planning to visit Hong Kong and Macao, as well as mainland visa applicants intending to visit relatives, work, study, or handle certain matters in the two regions, will also be permitted to apply for visas at any domestic exit and entry administration center.
- US Department of Transport increases the number of weekly flights operated by Chinese carriers to 12. On May 3, 2023, the US Department of Transport (USDOT) issued an order stating that it has increased the number of round-trip flights between the US and China that are operated by Chinese airlines from eight to 12 per week.
In August 2020, the USDOT increased the number of round-trip flights that could be operated by Chinese carriers to eight per week, equal to the number operated by US airlines.
The latest order did not increase the number of Chinese airlines that are permitted to operate China-US routes, with airlines still limited to Air China, China Eastern, China Southern, and Xiamen Airlines. The US airlines that currently operate these routes are American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines.
Despite the increase, the number of flights between China and the US remains significantly below pre-pandemic levels. According to data from Cirium, non-stop flights between China and the US were still 94 percent lower than prior to the pandemic at the end of April 2023.
Although airlines are now permitted to operate more flight routes, it is not guaranteed that they will be able to operate at full capacity, as there are several other factors keeping flight numbers down. These include a sluggish recovery of demand from passengers in the US, lower levels of business travel, and pilot staffing issues. Due to this, the cost of flights between China and the US remain significantly higher than they were pre-pandemic, further discouraging travel between the two countries.
- Domestic Travel During China’s Labor Day Holiday Exceeds 2019 Levels. China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism has released the travel statistics for the 2023 Labor Day holiday, which took place from April 29 to May 3. According to the ministry’s data, a total of 274 million domestic trips were made nationwide, a year-on-year increase of 70.83 percent, equivalent to 119.09 percent of the same period in 2019. Revenue from domestic tourism revenue reached RMB 148 billion (approx. US$21.4 billion), a year-on-year increase of 128.9 percent, recovering to 100.66 percent of 2019 levels.
Data from the online travel agency Ctrip also shows that people traveled further afield compared to previous years, when COVID-19 restrictions led to a rise in short-haul travel. According to the data, the travel radius increased by 25 percent compared to 2022, while inter-provincial hotel bookings accounted for over 70 percent of total hotel bookings.
Outbound travel also recorded a major increase, as travelers were able to leave the country for the first May Day holiday since the start of the pandemic. According to Ctrip data, the overall booking volume for outbound travel increased by nearly 700 percent compared with the same period last year, with the volume of outbound air ticket and hotel bookings increasing by nearly 900 percent and 450 percent year-on-year respectively.
See our article on the 2023 Labor Day Travel Recovery for a full breakdown and discussion of the data.
- The demand for travel during the Labor Day holiday has surpassed the pre-pandemic levels in China. According to industry data, the demand for hotel rooms and air tickets for this year’s Labor Day holiday in China is expected to surpass the levels seen before the pandemic in 2019. This reflects a promising recovery in the country’s domestic travel industry after Beijing lifted its “zero-Covid” restrictions. Qunar.com, one of China’s largest online travel platforms, reported a 23 percent increase in domestic hotel bookings for the five-day holiday compared to the same period in 2019. Many of the bookings were for popular destinations in the Yangtze River Delta region, Chongqing municipality, Chengdu, and the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei cluster. Similarly, Trip.com reported a surge in demand with a 157 percent increase in package tour bookings to lower-tier cities like Zibo in Shandong province, Wanning on Hainan Island, and Pingtan in Fujian province.
China to Remove PCR Test Requirements for Inbound Travelers from April 29. According to media reports, at a regular press briefing on Tuesday, April 25, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning stated that people traveling to China will be permitted to take an antigen test instead of a PCR test within 48 hours of boarding from April 29 onward. In addition, airlines will no longer be required to check the pre-boarding COVID-19 test certificates.
This change was made in an effort to further optimize China’s COVID-19 prevention and control measures and facilitate international travel.
Chinese cities remove mandatory mask requirement on public transport. Major cities in China, such as Beijing and Guangzhou, have recently relaxed their regulations on wearing masks while using public transportation systems. This decision came after the National Administration of Disease Prevention and Control issued a clarification on April 12, 2023, stating that wearing masks on public transportation is recommended but no longer mandatory.
- China’s aviation industry accelerates recovery. According to the China Air Transport Association (CATA), China’s aviation has recovered rapidly in the first quarter of 2023, returning to almost pre-pandemic levels. According to the data, in the first three months of the year, the volume of passenger flights recovered to 82.3 percent of that in the same period in 2019. Meanwhile, cargo and mail traffic recovered to 80 percent and 89 percent of 2019 levels respectively.While domestic flight routes have recorded strong recovery, international flight routes, in particular to the European and US markets, have lagged behind due to factors such as “traffic rights, time slots, and airport support capabilities”.The CATA also predicted that the aviation industry will continue to recover in the second quarter of 2023, with passenger flight volume recovering to 98 percent of pre-pandemic levels and passenger traffic volume recovering to 85 percent of pre-pandemic levels. Domestic passenger flights are expected to reach 105 percent of 2019 levels, driven by a high demand for travel, while international regional flight volume is expected to recover to 45 percent of pre-pandemic levels.In addition, following multiple years of losses, China’s airlines’ profitability also rose in the first quarter of 2023, with passenger revenue more than doubling from the previous quarter, and the proportion of passenger revenue in transportation revenue “rising significantly”.
- PCR-test free travel for passengers from the listed 34 countries. Air passengers traveling directly from 34 specific countries to China can now use an Antigen Rapid Test (ART) result as an alternative to the PCR test, according to recent announcements by Chinese embassies in several countries. These announcements may only be available in their original language or on their official WeChat pages, but they have been confirmed to be accurate. Passengers originating from the following countries are eligible for this policy: Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Laos, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, South Africa, Kenya, Russia, Switzerland, Hungary, New Zealand, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Greece, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Iran, Vietnam, Nepal, Tanzania, Georgia, Serbia, Azerbaijan, and Brunei.
- Approvals of culture and tourism exchange groups with foreign countries to resume starting April 1. On March 27, 2023, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism published a statement on its website regarding the resumption of the assessment and authorization process for foreign cultural and tourism exchange groups. Starting from April 1, 2023, all cultural and tourism administrative departments can begin reviewing and approving foreign groups that plan to visit for cultural and tourism purposes. For further information, please refer to our dedicated article.
- High-speed rail between Shanghai and Hong Kong to resume starting April 1. According to the Shanghai Railway Bureau, the G99 high-speed train running from Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station to Hong Kong West Kowloon Station will resume operations from April 1 onward. The return journey, operating on the G100 train from Hong Kong West Kowloon Station to Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station, will resume on April 2. Tickets for this rail route have officially gone on sale today (March 23), at a price of RMB 894 for second-class adult tickets.All railway routes between Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland were suspended in early 2020 due to pandemic control. This announcement follows the recent news that the Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport will resume flight routes to international destinations, as well as Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan, from March 26 onward.
- Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport to resume international flight routes. According to a post on the official WeChat account of the Shanghai Airport Group, from March 26 onwards, Shanghai Hongqiao International airport will resume flight routes to international destinations, as well as Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan. 11 airlines, including China Eastern Airlines, Air China, Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways, Korean Air, Asiana Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Airlines, Air Macau, China Airlines, and EVA Air will operate out of Terminal 1 of the airport.The post also advised passengers to check with the airline they are flying for the latest flight updates.Shanghai Hongqiao International Airports suspended all international flight routes, as well as routes to Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan, in March 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic control measures. All flight routes operating out of the airport were transferred to Shanghai Pudong International Airport.
- China Resumes Applications for Foreign Commercial Performances. On March 16, Thursday, China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism announced that it will resume accepting applications for commercial performances involving people from overseas, starting from March 20, 2023. This marks the removal of another restriction imposed during the zero-COVID policy period. Earlier this week, China resumed issuing all types of visas for foreigners on March 15, 2023, including the long-awaited tourism visa. The applications for commercial performances involving people from Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan were resumed on February 16, 2023, yet applications for commercial performances involving other overseas applicants had been suspended until now with limited exceptions.
See our full article on the topic here.
- China to resume issuing all types of visas to foreigners: On March 16, China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism announced that it will resume accepting applications for a commercial performance involving people from overseas, starting from March 20, 2023. This marks the removal of another restriction imposed during the zero-COVID policy period. Earlier this week, China resumed issuing all types of visas for foreigners on March 15, 2023, including the long-awaited tourism visa.
- China to resume issuing all types of visas to foreigners: Starting from March 15, 2023, China will resume issuing all types of visas to foreign nationals, ending the cross-border control measures it imposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic three years ago. On March 14, 2023, the Chinese foreign ministry announced that certain areas in China, such as Hainan Island and Shanghai port, which previously allowed entry without visas, will once again allow visa-free entry. In addition, foreign visitors from Hong Kong and Macau will be permitted to enter the southern manufacturing center of Guangdong without visas. The foreign ministry also declared that foreign nationals with visas issued before March 28, 2020, that are still valid, will be allowed to enter China.
- China to resume group tours to more countries: The Chinese government website issued a notice on March 10, 2023, announcing the Notice on the Pilot Resumption of Travel Agencies Operating Outbound Group Tours for Chinese Citizens to Relevant Countries (the second Batch). The circular permits travel agencies and online tourism companies to offer outbound group tours and air ticket + hotel services for Chinese citizens to countries such as France, Greece, Spain, Iceland, Italy, Denmark, Portugal, Brazil, Nepal, Brunei, Vietnam, Mongolia, Iran, Mauritius, Zimbabwe, Uganda, and others. This pilot program will commence on March 15, 2023. The circular emphasizes the importance of travel agencies complying with the “one group, one reporting” system and not conducting outbound business that is not authorized by the national list or schedule.
- The US rescinds special COVID-19 requirements for travelers from China: The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that the special COVID-19 testing regulations for travelers from China and its administrative regions, which were implemented on January 5, 2023, due to a significant outbreak of cases in the country, have been officially lifted on March 10, 2023. This means that the previous testing requirements are no longer in effect. This announcement implies that individuals traveling from China, Hong Kong, Macau, and certain designated airports outside of China are no longer required to undergo a pre-flight COVID-19 test or provide evidence of recent recovery from COVID-19 in order to board a flight to the United States.
- Starting from March 1, 48-hour negative test results are no longer required for flying to China: According to notices released by Chinese Embassies in Russia, Singapore, Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, South Africa, New Zealand, and Switzerland, from March 1, passengers taking direct flights from the local areas to China can replace 48-hour nucleic acid testing with antigen testing (including self-testing), and airlines will no longer check relevant reports. passengers will only be required to complete the Health Declaration to China Customs by filling out the form either on the China Customs WeChat mini-program or at the corresponding website.
- Holders of virtual APEC Business Travel Cards will be can now enter China without applying for new visas. Chinese embassies and consulates abroad recently announced that starting from May 1st, 2023, holders of virtual APEC Business Travel Cards (ABTCs) will be able to enter China without needing to apply for new visas. The ABTC is a long-term visa provided by 21 economies in the Asia-Pacific region for their citizens, which allows them to enter and exit China multiple times without applying for a visa within the card’s validity period and stay for up to 60 days each time.
- China Customs scraps COVID-related measures for import products. China’s General Administration of Customs (GAC) issued a notice (Announcement No. 14 ) on February 21, 2023, to announce that will no longer require certain COVID-19 prevention measures for import goods from March 1 onward. From this date onward, importers will no longer have to declare that they have implemented “preventative disinfection” of the goods. They will also no longer have to fill in the “departure date” of the import goods when making import declarations where the date involves COVID-19 management measures.
- South Korea lifts testing requirements for travelers from China. According to media reports citing South Korean health officials, South Korea has lifted requirements for travelers from China to undergo COVID-19 testing on arrival. Requirements for pre-departure testing will also be scrapped but will remain in place until March 10. This follows South Korea’s decision on February 11 to resume the issuance of visas for Chinese citizens, which was reciprocated by China resuming visas for South Korean citizens.
- China tourism set to fully recover by summer 2023. According to the China Tourism Academy, domestic tourism in China is expected to fully recover by this summer, with travel volume expected to approach and even exceed pre-pandemic levels. The estimates follow the strong travel numbers recorded during the 2023 Chinese New Year period, which saw the highest travel volume since 2020. According to the academy, over the course of 2023, domestic tourism is expected to recover to 76 percent of the level in 2019, with an estimated total of 4.45 billion trips. In addition, domestic tourism revenue is expected to recover to 71 percent of 2019 levels, increasing by 89 percent year-on-year to reach RMB 4 trillion (approx. US$579.8 billion).International tourism, meanwhile, is expected to recover to 31.5 percent of pre-pandemic levels, with around 90 million inbound and outbound trips, a two-fold increase from the previous year.
- France scraps COVID-19 testing for travelers from China after EU countries agree to phase out travel measures: On Thursday, February 16, the 27 EU member countries and Schengen agreed to phase out testing requirements that were imposed on travelers from China following the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions in China. According to the Swedish Presidency of the Council of the EU, the member states, based on the recommendation of health experts, agreed to phase out the requirement for a negative pre-departure COVID-19 test by the end of February and to phase out random spot testing of travelers arriving from China by mid-March. The travel measures were provided as optional guidelines for EU members to adopt, with countries such as France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, and the Netherlands, choosing to do so. In response, the French Embassy in Beijing announced that France will no longer require a negative COVID-19 test taken within 48 hours of boarding the flight to France, and will cease doing spot tests for arrivals from February 16 onward.
- Beijing declares victory over COVID-19: During a meeting of the Communist Party of China held on February 16, it was stated that China has achieved a major and conclusive triumph in battling COVID-19. According to the statement, China has provided medical care to 200 million people who were infected with COVID-19 since November 2022. This number also includes almost 800,000 patients who were in critical condition.
- China announces resumption of short-term visas for travelers from South Korea: The Chinese embassy in Seoul confirmed the resumption of short-term visas for South Koreans starting February 18, 2023, de facto ending most of the remaining measures taken by Beijing against Covid-related curbs on travelers from China. Short-term visas will be available for South Koreans seeking to enter China for visits, business, transit, and private affairs, as per the embassy’s statement.
- South Korea resumes short-term visas to visitors from China: Following China’s improvement in its COVID-19 situation, South Korea resumed short-term visas for visitors coming from China on February 11, 2023. Beijing might consider doing the same. Seoul had halted the issuance of short-term visas to Chinese tourists earlier in January, due to the unexpected wave of infections caused by Beijing’s sudden decision to abandon its “zero-Covid” policy. In retaliation, China stopped granting South Korean tourists short-term visas.
- The possibility of new COVID-19 variants circulating in China is low: According to a paper by leading Chinese scientist George Gao published in the Lancet medical journal, no new variants had emerged in the initial weeks of China’s recent outbreak. This is in line with China’s CDC’s statement that their continuous monitoring showed no new strains of COVID-19. “The world should completely calm down from the fear that there are new variants or special variants circulating (in China)”, Gao said.
- Fitch revises its growth forecast for China’s economic growth in 2023 to 5%: In view of the faster-than-expected recovery of consumption and other activities, rating agency Fitch has revised its growth forecast for China to 5.0% from 4.1%. It is the first major rating agency that upgrades China’s 2023 economic growth forecast. Other rating agencies are cautious to upgrade their predictions now, due to concerns over the sluggish property market and the weak overseas trade demand.
- Luxury market shrinks 10% in 2022: According to a report by Bain & Company, China’s luxury market suffered a 10 percent contraction due to the strict zero-COVID policy implemented in China in 2022. But with China rolling back its COVID-19 restrictions and determined to bring its economy to the growth track, the luxury market could see 2021 sales level as mall traffic improves and consumer sentiment rebounds.
- Chinese and foreign airlines add more international routes: With China reopening and overseas group tours resuming, both Chinese and foreign airlines are increasing their number of international flights that link China with the rest of the world. According to Hanglv Zongheng, a civil aviation flight information provider, around 130,000 people flew out of China between February 1 and February 6, an over 600 percent jump compared to the same period last year. Meanwhile, China’s China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said that the Chinese mainland is ready to resume all cross-strait direct flights without restrictions and urged Taiwan to take similar moves.
- China resumed inbound and outbound group tours between the Chinese Mainland and Hong Kong, Macao: On February 3, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism published on its website a notice on the resumption of inbound and outbound group tours between the Chinese Mainland and Hong Kong, Macao. Starting from February 6, travel agencies and online travel companies can resume their inbound and outbound group tours and “air ticket + hotel” business between the Chinese Mainland and the two special administrative regions.
- China railway traffic rebounded during the Chunyun period: China’s railway passenger traffic rebounded to about 90% of the pre-pandemic level of 2019, during the period between January 22 and February 1. According to data from the National Railway Administration (NRA), some 102 million passenger trips were made on the country’s railways. The number represents a 48.7% jump from the comparable period in 2022 when a strict zero-COVID policy was implemented to curb the outbreaks. Meanwhile, China Railway (CR) said that it expects China’s railway passenger traffic during this year’s chunyun period (Jan 7-Feb 15) to total around 300 million people, recovering to about 80% of the pre-pandemic level of 2019.
- Between January 27 and Feb 2, 2023, China recorded 3,278 COVID-related fatalities. China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared that COVID-related fatalities registered in the country’s hospitals totaled 3,278 between January 27 and February 2, 2023. As per the CDC, 3,147 of these died from various conditions associated with the disease, while 131 passed away from respiratory failure brought on by the novel coronavirus infection. This bring the total number of patients who have died in hospitals with COVID-19 since December 8, 2022 to 82,238.
- Mainland China to Fully Resume Personnel Crossings to and from Hong Kong and Macao from February 6. According to a notice published on the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council website, mainland China will fully resume border crossings to and from Hong Kong and Macao and lift caps on the number of travelers permitted to cross starting from Monday, February 6. It also removes requirements for travelers to have a negative COVID-19 test if they have been in Hong Kong and Macao for seven days prior to crossing. The announcement confirms previous media reports that three more border crossings would be opened and the quota system for the number of people permitted to cross the border would be lifted.
For more information on this, see our article here.
- Three more border crossings will open between mainland China and Hong Kong, according to SCMP source. A source within the Guangdong and Hong Kong governments has told the South China Morning Post (SCMP) that the two jurisdictions have “in principle” agreed to open three more border crossings as soon as this Monday. The source also said that the current COVID-19 testing requirements and daily quota for the number of people permitted to cross will be scrapped. However, the source also told the SCMP that they will have to “wait for the central government’s final approval.” This news has yet to be confirmed by the Guangdong or Hong Kong authorities.
- COVID-19 cases are declining in China, according to NHC. At a regular press conference for the State Council’s joint COVID-19 prevention and control mechanism, Fu Wei, a supervising official for the National Health Commission (NHC) stated that COVID-19 case numbers have decreased significantly from the peak in December, and remained at a “low level” over the Chinese New Year (CNY) period (January 21 to 27). According to the readout of the press conference, compared to the peak on December 23, 2022, the number of diagnoses and treatments in fever clinics declined by 94 percent in the CNY period. Moreover, on January 27, there were just over 2 million diagnoses and treatments in general outpatient and emergency clinics in grassroots institutions, a decrease of nearly 30 percent compared with that before the holiday, and about 44 percent less than the peak volume recorded on December 29.
- China resumes visa services in Japan after suspension. According to a notice on the website of the Chinese Embassy in Japan, China will resume issuing visas to people in Japan from January 29, onward, after having suspended the services just over two weeks earlier on January 10. China suspended visa services in Japan after it imposed new border controls on people traveling from China after China lifted the majority of its COVID-19 restrictions. China also suspended visa services in South Korea for the same reason but has yet to resume services.
- China conditionally approves two new domestic anti-COVID drugs. According to a notice published on its website, the National Medical Products Administration (NMPA) has conditionally approved two more domestic oral anti-COVID drugs after an emergency review and approval procedure. The two new drugs are Xiannuoxin, developed by Hainan Simcere Co., and Mindewei, developed by Shanghai Wangshi Biomedical Technology Co. Both drugs reportedly have similar efficacy to Paxlovid, and are intended for the treatment of adult patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 infections. According to the notice, the two producers are required to continue conducting relevant research and “complete the conditional requirements” within a certain time limit before submitting the follow-up research results.
- A second wave of COVID-19 infections is “unlikely” in the next two-three months. According to Chinese government officials, there is little chance of a significant COVID-19 comeback in China over the next two to three months, since 80 percent of the population already caught the virus and built immune resistance to it. Wu Zunyou, the chief epidemiologist at the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention, stated that a second COVID-19 wave is unlikely to happen soon, despite the widespread movement of people during the ongoing Lunar New Year holiday period.
- China to resume outbound group travel. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism announced that starting, February 6, 2023, Chinese travel agencies will be allowed to provide outbound group travel for to 20 countries – Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Maldives, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Laos, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Kenya, South Africa, Russia, Switzerland, Hungary, New Zealand, Fiji, Cuba, and Argentina. See our article here.
- Hong Kong to remove home isolation requirement. Starting January 30, 2023, Hong Kong will no longer require patients infected with COVID-19 to be quarantined, de-facto removing one of the remaining significant restrictions in place. The decision to lower COVID-19’s designation to an endemic disease includes eliminating the isolation requirement. Hong Kong’s move follows the same provision taken by the Mainland on January 8. According to the local government, this represents “One of the crucial stages towards Hong Kong’s normalcy.”
- China releases COVID-19 death toll since December. In a press conference held on January 14, 2023, the National Health Commission (NHC) announced for the first time China’s death toll since its shift away from “zero-COVID”. Between December 8, 2022 and January 12, 2023, 59,938 COVID-related deaths were recorded in Chinese hospitals. Among them, 5,503 died of respiratory failure caused by the COVID-19 infection, and 54,435 died of basic diseases combined with the COVID-19 infection. The average age of the deaths was 80.3 years old, with 90.1 percent aged 65 and above, and 56.5 percent aged 80 and above. More than 90 percent of the deaths were complicated by underlying diseases.
- China expedites the localization of imported COVID-19 medications. As China makes preparations to safeguard high-risk populations in light of probable epidemic waves during the forthcoming Lunar New Year holiday, Chinese authorities and manufacturers are actively supporting localized manufacturing of COVID-19 medicines. Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD), a leading US pharmaceutical company, revealed on Wednesday that it has begun license talks with Sinopharm to produce and distribute Molnupiravir in China to better serve Chinese patients and support the country’s fight against COVID-19.
- Concern about the elderly during the Lunar New Year holiday. As they prepare to travel home for the holidays, many in China are concerned that they may infect elderly relatives with COVID-19, which the WHO fears could spark a severe outbreak. The Lunar New Year vacation begins on January 21.
- WHO committee to meet and discuss COVID-19 emergency status. Three years after it was initially announced, a World Health Organization committee will convene on January 27 to discuss whether the COVID-19 pandemic still qualifies as a global emergency. At a news conference in Geneva, WHO spokesperson Carla Drysdale confirmed the date of the gathering. The Emergency Committee offers recommendations to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who ultimately decides whether an epidemic qualifies as a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern,” the highest degree of warning for the UN organization.
- China to halt short-term visas in South ore and Japan. Japan and South Korea will no longer receive short-term visas from China in response to COVID-19 travel restrictions imposed on Chinese citizens by the two countries. The Chinese embassy in Seoul announced that visas for South Koreans traveling to China as tourists have been suspended, and similar steps will be taken for Japanese tourists. Beijing claims that the tit-for-tat action would continue until “discriminatory” entry restrictions against China are abolished by the two countries.
- About 90% of the population in Henan has already been infected. Almost 90% of all people in Henan, China’s third most populated province, have been infected with COVID-19, according to health officials. The total number, presented at a regular press conference from the local pandemic prevention and control team, came to around 88.5 million people.
- China to sync with the rest of the world as COVID-19 becomes endemic. According to Zhang Wenhong, a Shanghai-based expert in infectious diseases, once COVID-19 becomes endemic, China will soon be on par with the rest of the globe. “The pandemic’s initial wave of the peak has also reached Mainland China. We will move into an endemic stage as more medical resources become accessible,” he said in a recent seminar. Endemic diseases are persistent and with recognizable patterns. The resort towns of Sanya and Guangzhou have both declared in recent days that the worst of their respective local epidemics has passed. In a study, medical experts from Shanghai predicted that the most recent COVID-19 wave will have moved through major Chinese cities by the end of 2022, with illnesses first appearing in rural regions and farther-flung provinces in central and western China in mid- to late January.
- Beijing decriminalizes violations of COVID-19 rules. China has instructed judges and law enforcement authorities to refrain from convicting anyone who disobeys quarantine and other pandemic containment measures. According to a statement released simultaneously on Saturday by five state agencies, including the Supreme People’s Court and the Ministry of Public Security, violations of domestic Covid prevention and containment laws and border health inspections would no longer be prosecuted as crimes as of January 8, 2023.
- China removes the second nucleic acid test requirement for travelers from Hong Kong.On January 5, 2023, the State Council Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism announced new measures for inbound travelers from Hong Kong and Macao. Among other changes, travelers from Hong Kong will no longer be required to take a nucleic acid test upon arrival, however, they will still be required to have a negative test result from within 48 hours of departure to mainland China. Travelers from Macao will not be required to do a test before departure if they have not traveled to any third country or region in the seven days before leaving for mainland China.The announcement also canceled previous restrictions on the number of flights operating between mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macao, and called for the gradual increase in the number of flights. Visa applications for mainland Chinese residents to Hong Kong and Macao will also be resumed. The above measures will be in place from January 8, 2023.
- China’s aviation regulator releases new version of COVID-19 technical guidelines for airlines and airports.On January 5, 2023, the Civil Aviation Adminstration of China (CAAC) released the 10th version of technical guidelines for airlines and airports, which do away with many of the previous COVID-19 prevention and control measures. Among other changes, the new guidelines remove quarantine requirements for international flight crews. Previously, international flight crews were required to undergo seven days of centralized quarantine upon arrival in China. The guidelines still require crew to wear certain types of face masks and protective gloves when fulfilling certain services, such as onboard catering, The guidelines also encourage airline crew to get vaccinated and enable them to get a second booster shot. The new guidelines will come into effect from January 8, 2023, the date when COVID-19 is officially downgraded to a category B infection and treated as an ordinary illness.
- Shanghai sets official definitions for serious and critical COVID-19 cases. On January 4, the Shanghai expert group for the treatment of COVID-19 released guidelines for the designation of “mild and ordinary”, “serious” and “critical” COVID-19 symptoms, in order to ensure patients get the right treatment. The guidelines are as follows: “Mild and ordinary” symptoms include: Fever, fatigue, dry cough, sore throat or discomfort in the throat, general malaise, and other clinically relevant symptoms, but no dyspnea and decrease in oxygen saturation. Those without pneumonia can be diagnosed as “mild”; those with pneumonia can be diagnosed as “ordinary”. “Serious” symptoms include: In adults:
- Shortness of breath, RR≥30 times/min;
- Oxygen saturation of is ≤93 percent when inhaling at rest;
- Partial pressure of oxygen in arterial blood (PaO2)/inhaled oxygen concentration (FiO2)≤300 mmHg;
- Pulmonary imaging examinations showing that the lesion progresses more than 50 percent within 24 to 48 hours.
- Extremely high fever or persistent high fever for more than 3 days;
- Shortness of breath;
- Oxygen saturation of is ≤93 percent when inhaling at rest;
- Require assisted breathing;
- Drowsiness and convulsions;
- Refusal or difficulty in feeding, with symptoms of dehydration.
“Critical” symptoms include:
- Respiratory failure and need for mechanical ventilation;
- Complications with other organ failures, where ICU monitoring and treatment are required.
For mild and ordinary cases, at-home treatment or treatment in a nearby medical clinic is implemented. Standardized treatment will be provided by the medical force of the community health service center. People in high-risk groups, such as those over the age of 60, immunocompromised people, or perinatal people, will be referred to district-level hospitals. The above designations are designed for the consultation of local medical providers to ensure they are able to properly diagnose and treat COVID-19 patients according to their needs.
- The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) issues measures to resume international passenger flights. On December 18, 2022, the CAAC released a document titled Several Measures to Resume International Passenger Flights, which removes several restrictions imposed to prevent COVID-19 transmission from passengers arriving from abroad. These include:
- Abolishing the “Five-One Policy”, which allowed domestic airlines to operate just one outbound international flight route to each country per week, and foreign airlines to operate just one inbound flight to China per week.
- Resumption of applications from Chinese and foreign airlines for new or additional international passenger routes for the summer and fall seasons of 2023.
- Resumption of applications from Chinese and foreign airlines for international passenger charter flights in accordance with the existing charter for the summer and autumn flight season in 2023.
- Resumption of applications for landing permits for business jets in China.
These above measures will go into effect on January 8, 2023.
- Chinese authorities reassured the public over New Year celebrations. After the authorities and official media declared the COVID-19 outbreak under control and about to approach its peak, thousands of people came to the streets to celebrate the New Year.
- Hong Kong no longer requires COVID-19 tests upon arrival and vaccine pass. Following in the footsteps of mainland China’s reopening, Hong Kong announced the removal of almost all remaining COVID-19 restrictions, including testing requirements for inbound travelers and social distancing, starting December 29, 2022. The SAR will also lift the need for a vaccination permit to visit some locations. Mask use indoors and outdoors remains mandatory. Testing upon arrival will also change: inbound travelers will self-test for five days and present a negative quick antigen test result before boarding their aircraft.
- The Ministry of Transport is ready to open borders. The Ministry of Transport released a new plan for the “gradual and orderly resumption” of international passenger transport. The plan proposes to strengthen communication with foreign authorities on the restoration of international passenger routes before comprehensively opening the borders.
- China to remove anti-Covid measures for all imported cold-chain foods, and non-cold-chain items. China’s General Administration of Customs (GAC) announced the withdrawal of anti-COVID-19 measures (including nucleic acid testing) at ports of entry for all imported cold-chain foods and non-cold-chain commodities starting January 8, 2023, following the downgrade of COVID-19 to Class B management. The GAC is also aiming for the gradual and steady resumption of freight and passenger travel at border ports under procedural categories.
- China provides further details on the COVID-19 management shift. As announced on December 26, 2022, China will no longer manage COVID-19 as a Class A infection, but rather as a Class B infection starting on January 8, 2023. On December 27, 2022, the State Council’s joint preventive and control mechanism against COVID-19 held a press conference to release more information on this policy change. The adjustment means a shift of focus from infection prevention to medical treatment. According to Chang Jile, deputy head of the national office for disease prevention and control, the downgrade of COVID-19 management would result in four major changes in China’s epidemic response efforts. Instead of using techniques like mass testing, the country will identify new cases while delivering medical services and through individual patient monitoring. As previously announced, asymptomatic and mild cases will be handled at home rather than through isolation-based therapy and surveillance. Key areas, organizations, and demographic groups will be the focus of the epidemic’s preventative and control efforts. Lastly, measures like centralized quarantine and closed-loop transportation that target inbound tourists will be discontinued.
- China to resume foreign visa applications along with other immigration procedures. On December 27, 2022, China’s National Immigration Administration (NIA) released the new measures for immigration administration following the downgrade of COVID-19 management to Class B infectious disease. As per the announcement, the NIA will now accept foreigners’ applications for the extension, renewal, and re-issuance of ordinary visas, stay permits, and residence permits. The issuance of port visas, the implementation of the 24/72/144-hour visa-free transit policy, and the issuance of temporary entry permits will also be resumed, as well as exit-&-entry permits both for China and border control areas. According to the new measures, passenger clearance of land ports and channels will also be resumed, along with exit and entry of passengers and border residents. In addition, the document calls for the resumption of fast channels in Hong Kong and Macao’s ports and residents from the two Special Administrative Regions (SARs) will be able to use such tracks for immigration inspection. For more information, please read our China Briefing article: China to Resume Passport, Visa Issuance Starting January 8, 2023
- China to manage COVID-19 as a Class B infectious disease and cancel quarantine requirement on inbound travelers: On December 26, 2023, China’s National Health Commission (NHC) announced that the official name for COVID-19, the “novel coronavirus pneumonia”, will be changed to the “novel coronavirus infection” (COVID-19 infections), and preventive and control measures for a Class B infectious disease will be applied to COVID-19 infections. Moreover, COVID-19 infection shall no longer be included in the administration of quarantinable infectious diseases as stipulated in the Border Health and Quarantine Law of the People’s Republic of China. In another circular released by the NHC on the same day, the Overall Plan for Implementing Class B Infectious Disease Management for COVID-19 Infections, it further clarifies that starting January 8, 2023, China will take no quarantinable infectious disease control measures against entry persons and goods. For more information, please read our China Briefing article here.
- China stops publishing COVID-19 data on a daily basis: Starting December 25, 2022, China’s National Health Commission (NHC) has stopped publishing daily COVID-19 case data, a practice that has been in practice since January 21, 2020. The move is made because daily COVID-19 case data from the NHC can no longer reflect the country’s real COVID-19 situation, as China has ceased mass testing among its population. Going forward, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China’s CDC) will release relevant COVID-19 situations for study and reference. However, the frequency of the CDC’s release was not specified.
- China extended the availability of domestic COVID-19 vaccine produced by Anhui Zhifei Longcom: As per an announcement released by the National Health Commission (NHC), China shall extend the application of domestic COVID-19 vaccine (CHO Cell) produced by Anhui Zhifei Longcom Biopharmaceutical to people aged three or above and approve the vaccine as the first booster shot for adults (people aged 18 years old and above) who have completed two shots of the same vaccine six months prior.
- Experts say second COVID vaccine booster is necessary for certain groups: On December 14, 2022, China’s National Health Commission (NHC) released a plan that China will roll out second COVID-19 vaccine booster shots for high-risk group, elderly people over 60 years old, people with serious underlying diseases, and people with low immunity. China’s State Council joint epidemic prevention team said the second booster shot still necessary for people who have been infected with COVID-19, as the immunity triggered by COVID-19 infection alone will be less strong than the immunity generated by the virus infection plus receiving a second booster shot.
- December 23, 2022 – China recorded 3,761 new confirmed cases, of which 65 were imported and 3,696 were locally transmitted (1,599 in Guangdong, 547 in Beijing, 310 in Chongqing, 263 in Yunnan, 112 in Hubei, 110 in Sichuan, 93 in Hunan, 79 in Shanghai, 57 in Tianjin, 41 in Heilongjiang, 34 in Henan, 32 in Zhejiang, 25 in Shaanxi, 23 in Jiangxi, 23 in Shandong, 18 in Shanxi, 15 in Hebei, 15 in Guangxi, 13 in Inner Mongolia, 9 in Hainan, 2 in Jiangsu, 2 in Qinghai, 1 in Guizhou, 1 in Tibet, and 1 in Ningxia). No new deaths were recorded.
- Some hotels in Chengdu are piloting “2+3” policy for inbound travelers, as per media reports: On December 20, several passengers who had recently taken international flights into Chengdu said on social media platforms that the five-day centralized quarantine period under the “5+3” policy had been changed to two days. These passengers disclosed that they received notices during the centralized quarantine period that the quarantine policy had been adjusted and that they could leave on their own if the nucleic acid test was negative after two days of centralized quarantine. However, the length of home quarantine period required varies from one to another. As of 10:30 am, December 21, there was no official document confirming this relaxation of travel restriction. One staff working for the Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport said it’s possible that such shorten centralized quarantine period is now piloting in the region where these passengers’ hotels are based. We’ll keep monitoring China’s reopening in our daily COVID updates and the travel restriction article.
- Managing Your China Manufacturing & Supply Chains During COVID Outbreaks : As China shifts to a “living with COVID” strategy, businesses and investors are anticipating manufacturing and supply chain disruptions as a result of a spike in COVID-19 cases. With a peak predicted over the winter months, businesses should, to the best of their ability, prepare for the impending disruption and formulate risk mitigation plans for at least the period until mid-2023. To help with this, we provide practical advice on dealing with disruptions in manufacturing and supply chains and highlight the positive impact that the lifting of COVID restrictions may have on businesses in China. For more details, please read our China Briefing article here.
- From Zero-COVID to Living with COVID – What the Pivot Means for Businesses in China: China is in the process of shifting from “zero-COVID” to “living with COVID” by removing mandatory centralized quarantine, compulsory testing, and sweeping lockdowns. The reopening of the economy has long been awaited by business groups. However, in the short term, the sudden pivot in COVID-19 policy and the surge in cases may continue to disrupt the supply chain and business operations. It’s important for businesses to get prepared and mitigate the risks of COVID-19 spreading with their workforce. We provide an overview of the latest changes to China’s COVID policies, look at the possible headwinds for business and the economy, and discuss how companies can mitigate the risks of COVID-19 spreading within their workforce. For more details, please read our China Briefing article here.
- Shanghai stops checking negative nucleic acid test for outpatient and emergency patients: Starting December 20, Shanghai will no longer check nucleic acid tests for outpatient and emergency patients. All medical institutions shall strictly implement the first diagnosis responsibility system and the emergency and critical treatment system, and it is strictly forbidden to evade or delay treatment for any reason.
- Multiple cities ordered schools to take classes online amid COVID cases surge: Several cities, including Shanghai, Nanjing, Hangzhou, and Foshan, have ordered most of their schools to take classes online, to protect teachers and students from COVID cases surge. Among others, Shanghai ordered all its primary and middle schools to have classes online starting December 19, 2022, except for grade 9 and grade 12 students. All kindergartens and nurseries shall cease normal operation. Students and children with home care difficulties can apply to attend school or kindergarten. Primary and middle schools should arrange teachers to organize students to participate in online teaching and provide nursing services and lunch. Kindergartens should arrange childcare and other care services.
- Global investment banks are optimistic about China’s economic outlook following the country’s shift from zero-COVID to living with COVID, despite business confidence hitting a decade low: According to a survey by World Economics released on Monday, December 19, 2022, China’s business confidence fell to 48.1 in December from 51.8 in November, reaching the lowest since 2013. The results show how business sentiment has been affected by China’s sudden shift in its COVID-19 policy. On the other hand, however, global investment banks are bullish about China’s economic performance, predicting growth of five percent or higher in 2023. In particular, China’s economy will start to improve after March, after the first wave of COVID-19 case surge gets subdued. We’ll analyze how China plans to boost its economy in our upcoming article on China’s 2023 economic outlook.
- Multiple regions in China announced that employees testing positive for COVID-19 can go to work as normal: Zhejiang Province announced on December 18, 2022 that employees testing positive for COVID-19 can still go to work if necessary, providing they have no symptoms. On the same day, Chongqing announced that employees in the public and private sectors testing positive for COVID-19 with no symptoms or mild symptoms can go to work as normal if their health situations allow. On December 19, 2022, Wuhu City in Anhui Province, made a similar announcement to Chongqing. Beijing proposed that people be allowed to return to work after being released from quarantine without nucleic acid and antigen testing. There are also multiple hospitals calling for normal work of infected medical workers amid the surge of COVID-19 cases. Analysts said it’s a “remarkable turnaround” in a country where the zero-COVID principle was strictly followed a few weeks ago.
- Top epidemiologists predict that China’s first wave of infections will peak in the next one to two months before it subsides nationwide in three to six months. Big pharmaceutical manufacturers in China are speeding up the production of drugs that can ease COVID symptoms to ease the market shortage. China is to fully resume road passenger services as per a circular released by China’s Ministry of Transport. As of December 18, 2022, more than 10,000 cinemas had resumed operation, with a national operating rate of 82.86 percent—”Avatar: The Way of Water” grossed more than 360 million yuan in mainland China within three days of release since December 16.
- China’s health officials address concerns about lack of medical resources in wake of possible surge. In a weekly press meeting of the State Council’s COVID-19 Joint Defense and Control Mechanism, the Director of the Department of Medical Affairs of the National Health Commission (NHC) responded to a journalist’s question on the public’s concerns about a perceived lack of resources for COVID-19 treatment. While acknowledging that there is currently an imbalance between supply and demand, the Director outlined a series of steps the government is taking to shore up capacity. One is to increase medical clinics and supplies for COVID-19 patients. The government has required all primary and secondary-level hospitals to open fever clinics for COVID-19 patients, and that as of December 14, there were more than 14,000 fever clinics in primary and secondary hospitals and more than 33,000 fever clinics in grassroots medical and health institutions. In addition, some local statistics show that the average visit duration at fever clinics has been shortened from more than 4 hours to less than 40 minutes. Another measure is to promote the use of online medical services for COVID-19 patients in order to reduce peak demand and crowds at hospitals and clinics. The Director said the NHC requires medical institutions to provide 24-hour online consultation and medical guidance for patients, as well as appointment services. Prescriptions can also be issued online and the treatment delivered by third-party medicine distributors. China recently approved online sales of Pfizer’s COVID-19 medication Paxlovid, and a healthcare platform has reportedly begun selling the drug to people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
- China stops tracking asymptomatic COVID-19 cases. From Wednesday, December 14 onward, China’s National Health Commission (NHC) will no longer track and record asymptomatic COVID-19 cases. As COVID-19 testing has become voluntary for most people, those without or with very mild symptoms are unlikely to get tested, rendering the statistics unreliable. Confirmed symptomatic cases will continue to be tracked and recorded.
- Hong Kong lifts all COVID-19 curbs on inbound travelers. At a press briefing on Tuesday, December 13, Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee announced two new changes to the region’s COVID-19 prevention system that will effectively nullify the “0+3” self-isolation requirement for inbound travelers. The first adjustment is the scrapping of QR codes on the “Leave Home Safe” app before entering various premises. However, the government will maintain the vaccine pass, and proof of three inoculations with a COVID-19 vaccine will still be required to enter certain premises, such as restaurants. The second adjustment is the scrapping of the “amber code”, a code issued to all arrivals in Hong Kong that restricts people from entering public premises for a period of three days. Instead, everyone who tests negative for COVID-19 will be issued with a blue code in their vaccine pass which will give them free access to public places. The government had previously removed the requirement for travelers to take a PCR test upon arrival, and from Tuesday, December 13 onward only need to take a rapid antigen test (RAT). The new adjustments to the QR and amber codes will be effective from Wednesday, December 14 onwards.
- Hong Kong further loosens quarantine requirements. According to a notice posted on the Hong Kong government website, from Friday, December 9 onwards, the quarantine period for people infected with COVID-19 has been reduced from seven days to just five days. People that have tested positive for COVID-19 can now be released from quarantine if they test negative on a rapid antigen test (RAT) on days 4 and 5 after being placed into quarantine. Close contacts of infected people can now also be discharged on day 5 if they test negative on a RAT every day for the duration of the quarantine period. In addition, people arriving from Taiwan or overseas will now only be required to take RATs after arrival in Hong Kong, rather than a nucleic acid test. Previously, overseas arrivals were required to take nucleic acid tests on the first two days after arrival. The new requirements are effective from December 9 onward and apply retroactively to people who arrived in Hong Kong prior to this date and are still in self-isolation as of December 9.
- China’s travel code to go offline from December 13. Chinese media have reported that the travel code (通信行程卡), which was used to track whether people had traveled to areas with COVID-19 cases, will officially go offline from December 13 onward. All of the travel codes services, including text messages, web pages, the standalone app, and the Alipay and WeChat mini-programs, will no longer be accessible from this date. The retiring of the travel code marks the latest move to dismantle China’s COVID-19 prevention and control infrastructure.
- NHC provides guidance through multiple notifications on how to cope with China’s substantial relaxation of the national COVID policy: China’s recent relaxation of its COVID-19 policies has sparked concerns of a potential “winter wave” of confirmed cases, which may overwhelm the country’s medical system and disrupt production and supply chains. Some analyses said, “the changes may prove too much and too soon”. To cope with the situation, the National Health Commission (NHC) has released multiple circulars to guide the home quarantine and medical treatment process for the COVID confirmed cases. In addition to the Circular on Further Optimizing and Implementing the Prevention and Control Measures of the Novel Coronavirus Outbreak released on December 7, 2022, which abandons the mandatory health code for most places and allows home quarantine of asymptomatic cases and confirmed cases with mild symptoms, the NHC also released the Notice on Further Optimizing the Medical Treatment Process and the Current Medical Service Work and the Circular on the Issuance of A Work Plan for Graded Diagnosis and Treatment of COVID-19 with Medical Association as the Carrier to guide hospitals to properly handle the potential surge of COVID-19 cases, and the Circular on the Issuance of Guidelines for Home Treatment Of COVID-19 Patients to guide home quarantine of confirmed cases. The next few months will be critical for China to fine-tune its playbook to control outbreaks and revive the economy.
- China abandons the health code and centralized quarantine, along with new relaxed measures. As of December 7, 2022, the National Health Commission held a press conference to release further optimization of COVID-19 measures. The adjusted regulations read as below:
- Risk areas confined to building and specific floors: Moving forward, risk areas will only be identified by the specific apartment, building, unit, or floor. Authorities are not allowed to arbitrarily classify a whole residential community, neighborhood, district, etc. in a high-risk region.
- Health Code and COVID-19 tests requirements: PCR tests will still be required in high-risk areas. However, other venues, establishments, or public places—aside from nursing homes, medical facilities, kindergartens, primary and secondary schools, etc.—will no longer require testing or performing health code checks. Additionally, people traveling to China Additionally, if you travel to China, will no longer be asked to check their health code upon arrival if the COVID-19 test results are negative.
- Infected people can now isolate at home: Infected people, including those who are asymptomatic or have “minor” symptoms, can isolate at home or in a dedicated facility. After six-to-seven days of home isolation, if double COVID-19 test results are negative, the patient will be released from isolation. Close contacts will also be able to conduct home quarantine for five days or can choose to isolate in a dedicated facility.
- Put “Quickly Lockdown, Quickly Release” into practice: After five days in a row with no new reported cases, high-risk areas (now only specified to particular floors and rooms in buildings) can promptly have their restrictions lifted.
- Make sure that everyone has access to health care: All pharmacies should be open for business and should not be forced to close. Online and offline sales of over-the-counter medications shouldn’t be prohibited.
- Vaccinate senior citizens: To increase the immunization rate for those between the ages of 60 and 79 as well as those 80 and older, all communities should adhere to the maxim “do everything feasible.”
- Improve population health status: Family physicians and neighborhood clinics would be granted complete authority as the “gatekeepers of health.”
- Make sure society runs normally and that basic medical services are available: Personnel mobility must not be restricted, and labor, manufacturing, or business operations must not be stopped in low-risk locations.
- Implement security: To guarantee that individuals may leave to go to a doctor for medical treatment and emergency refuge, it is completely prohibited to block fire routes, unit doors, and community doors in a variety of ways.
- Improve prevention and control measures in education: Nationwide criteria for accurate prevention and control should be firmly implemented in schools. Schools that are not affected by the virus should continue their regular offline instruction, and on-campus stores, canteens, stadiums, and libraries should operate normally.
- Major cities in China ease COVID-19 requirements to access public transport and places. Several cities in China have declared that negative COVID-19 test results will no longer be required to ride public transport according to the optimization of control measures. Most cities also removed the negative test requirement to enter public spaces such as bars, restaurants, museums, and other establishments (apart from healthcare, educational, and certain other institutions). The list of municipalities and cities that announced changes includes: Beijing, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Shijiazhuang, Tianjin, Harbin, Luoyang, Zhengzhou, Dalian, Jinzhou, Shenyang, Taiyuan, Xi’an, Shanghai, and Chengdu.
- UBS and Bloomberg Economists predict China to fully reopen by mid-2023: Hu Yifan, regional chief investment officer and chief China economist at UBS Global Wealth Management said China is expected to fully lift its COVID-19 restrictions in Q3 2023, as per a Caixin report. Bloomberg economists have also predicted that China will fully reopen in Q2 2022 after China’s annual top political meetings. The overall expectations are that China’s reopening will be a gradual “process”, rather than a sudden “event”.
- Guangzhou lifts lockdown measures, cancels mass testing, and resumes public transport: On November 30, 2022, all 11 districts in Guangzhou announced that they will remove lockdown measures on “temporary control zones” immediately, while high-risk areas will continue the prevention and control measures. Guangzhou emphasized that it will generally not carry out mass testing and many of the PCR testing sites have been removed. On Wednesday afternoon, Guangzhou Metro announced that subway stations and Haizhu trams that had been suspended due to the epidemic prevention and control gradually resumed normal operation; the subway stations in Foshan on the western extension of Line 7 also resumed normal operation.
- Guangzhou and Chongqing allow home quarantine for COVID-19 close contacts: In a press conference held on November 30, 2022, city officials indicated that Chongqing shall identify close contacts for COVID-19 confirmed cases in a more accurate manner; “time-space companion” shall not be used as criteria for determining close contacts; and certain close contacts can isolate at home instead of going to centralized quarantine facilities. In a similar move, Guangzhou also announced it will allow qualified close contacts who meet certain conditions to quarantine at home, while close contacts of confirmed cases would still be subject to centralized quarantine in principle.
- Beijing exempts COVID-19 testing requirements for certain groups: In a press conference on epidemic prevention and control, Beijing announced that starting from November 30, 2022, long-term homebound elderly, students attending daily online classes, people working from home, and others who have no need to leave their home can be spared from PCR testing.
- China announces progress in COVID-19 vaccination and encourages booster shots for elderly groups: In a press conference held on November 29, 2022, the National Health Commission (NHC) disclosed that as of November 28, 2022, the number of people over the age of 60 who were vaccinated and fully vaccinated reached 239.4 million and 228.165 million, accounting for 90.68 percent and 86.42 percent of the elderly population, respectively. The number of people over the age of 60 who have received booster shots reached 181.511 million. A total of 23.5663 million people over the age of 80 were fully vaccinated, accounting for 65.8 percent of the age group, a significant increase from 40 percent on November 11, 2022. The number of people over the age of 80 who have received booster shots reached 14.456 million. However, the vaccination rate for older people in China is generally below that of the US and Singapore. The NHC recommended that people without contraindications who are eligible for vaccination, especially the elderly, should be vaccinated as soon as possible, and those eligible for booster shots should be vaccinated as soon as possible.
- Seven of Guangzhou’s 11 districts ease COVID-19 testing: According to a Xinhua report, from the night of November 27 to the morning of November 28, seven of Guangzhou’s 11 districts released the announcement that long-term homebound elderly, students attending daily online classes, people working from home, and others who have no need to leave their home – can be spared from mass testing. “On the basis of the scientific evaluation, the targeted precise exemption for some groups can not only reduce the risk of transmission but also effectively save resources”, Xinhua commented.
- Guangzhou announced that communities without new positive cases for five consecutive days can request reopening: On the afternoon of November 26, Zhang Yi, deputy director of the Guangzhou Municipal Health Commission and spokesman, said at a press conference on epidemic prevention and control that Guangzhou will start the work of creating “pestilence-free communities (villages and communities)” in the controlled areas. Communities, villages, or buildings with no new positive infections for five consecutive days can apply for reopening.
- Shanghai requires negative PCR test within 48 hours for entering most public venues amid new round of outbreaks: According to an announcement released by the Shanghai Culture and Tourism Administration, starting from November 25, citizens and tourists who enter such cultural and tourist places as performance venues, entertainment venues, chess and card rooms, Internet service business venues, script entertainment venues, A-class tourist attractions, museums, art galleries, public libraries, cultural centers (community cultural activity centers), and tourism consulting service centers of this City shall hold a negative nucleic acid test certificate within 48 hours. Visitors just holding a nucleic acid sample certificate within 24 hours shall not be allowed to be admitted, and a field antigen test is not allowed to replace a valid negative nucleic acid certificate. And according to another announcement released by the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Commerce, starting from November 29, consumers entering commercial places such as catering services (including bars), shopping centers (including department stores), supermarkets, wet markets, beauty salons, and bath (foot wash) places must hold a negative nucleic acid test certificate within 48 hours. As of November 28, Shanghai reported 26 high-risk areas.
- Chengdu to conduct mass testing of all residents. According to an official notice from the Chengdu COVID-19 prevention and control authorities, the city will carry out mass testing of all residents in 18 districts and counties from November 23 to 27. All residents of these areas will be required to take a nucleic acid test each day for five consecutive days. The tests will be carried out in each housing community from 07:30 to 13:00 each day. In addition, residents will be required to show a negative nucleic acid test from the last 24 hours to enter bars, chess and card rooms (such as mahjong parlors), gyms and other indoor leisure and entertainment venues, as well as construction sites, and logistics parks, and a negative test from the last 48 hours to enter public spaces and housing communities and take public transport. Residents are urged not to leave Chengdu during this time and will need a negative test from the last 48 hours if they still need to leave.
- Shanghai tightens restrictions for arrivals to the city. According to a notice on Shanghai’s official WeChat account, people traveling to the city from November 24 onwards will be subject to certain restrictions on movement for five days after arrival. During these five days, people are not permitted to go to restaurants or bars, shopping centers, supermarkets and vegetable markets, beauty salons, indoor gyms, and other public entertainment venues such as Internet cafes, escape rooms, game rooms, and so on. Travelers will also be required to take a test upon arrival, another two tests over the next two days (a total of three tests in the first three days of arrival), and a final test on the fifth day after arrival. During this period, their health codes will also show that they have been in Shanghai for less than five days.
- Beijing applies new testing requirements for incoming travelers and residents. From November 22, 2022, people traveling to Beijing are required to take three nucleic acid tests over the first three days after arrival, one each day. People will only be allowed to leave their home or place of residence after the negative result of the test has been released. The first test must be taken within 24 hours of arrival. Travelers who fail to take the three tests will have a notice appear on their Beijing health code urging them to get tested, which will only be removed after all the tests are completed. In addition, from November 24 onward, Beijing will require all residents to have a negative nucleic acid test result from the last 48 hours to enter public spaces, including office buildings, shopping malls, bars and restaurants, parks and scenic spots, and public transport. The measures come as Beijing’s case numbers have increased in the past few weeks, with 316 new confirmed cases recorded as of November 21.
- Guangzhou imposes five-day lockdown in Baiyun district. The district of Baiyun in central Guangzhou has decided to impose a five-day lockdown from November 21 to 25 to curb a recent outbreak of COVID-19. During this period, residents have been asked to stay at home and only leave for necessary errands, such as emergency medical treatment, COVID-19 testing, and purchasing daily necessities. The district has placed temporary restrictions on road traffic, and public transport has been suspended. However, the main roads within the district, as well as those going in and out, have not been closed, and vehicles are still allowed to pass through from other districts provided they do not stop within the districts. Areas that have not reported any COVID-19 cases in three consecutive days will be permitted to adjust the restrictions accordingly to decrease the impact on residents. China’s National Health Commission warns against excessive testing in low-risk areas. On November 19, China’s National Health Commission (NHC) released four new documents on the implementation of COVID-19 prevention and control measures. The documents are measures for the implementation of COVID-19 testing, delineation guidelines for COVID-19 risk areas, guidelines for home isolation and medical observation, and guidelines for home health monitoring. Among other requirements, the COVID-19 testing measures explicitly state that localities that have not recorded any COVID-19 cases must not expand testing requirements or carry out mass testing of all residents. Instead, testing resources should be used for key or at-risk personnel
- China records first COVID-19 death in six months. China reported that one person had died of COVID-19 on November 19, 2022, the first death recorded since May 26. The person was reportedly an 87 year old man in Beijing, who first contracted the virus on November 11. It was not reported whether the man was vaccinated, but the case has raised concern over the vaccination rate of elderly people as China has made recent moves to loosen COVID-19 restrictions.
- China relaxes COVID-19 curbs on domestic group trips. According to a statement from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, China has loosened COVID-19 restrictions on domestic group trips planned by travel agencies. After presenting their negative COVID-19 test results, travelers can now take cross-province journeys planned by travel agencies. Before, travel agencies were prohibited from planning group tourist excursions between counties that reported regions with high or medium COVID-19 risk and areas outside the province in which the county is based.
- A number of Chinese cities cancel or suspend mass PCR testing. Several Chinese cities, including Shanghai, Sanya, Dalian, Fuzhou, Shijiazhuang, and Hefei, announced they would suspend mass regional polymerase chain reaction testing for COVID-19. In the case of a protracted transmission period, exceptions will be considered if the source, the chain of contacts, and the number of cases are unclear. Community screening and routine PCR testing will continue. The objective is to better optimize the COVID-19 response, which includes the 20 updated prevention and control measures, providing new guidance for both domestic and international travelers.
- Online searches for flights to China soar after the relaxation testing and quarantine requirements. Following China’s reduction of its quarantine standards for foreign arrivals, interest in travel to China has nearly doubled, driven primarily by rising demand in the United States, according to online travel giant Trip.com Group. According to data provided by the company, searches for flights to China from the US increased by 136 percent over the weekend of November 11–13 compared to the same period the week before. Inquiries for flights from Australia increased by 116 percent over the same period, followed by queries from Japan, which grew by 102 percent.
- China changes quarantine requirements, cancels the circuit breaker mechanism for inbound flights, and requires only 1 negative PRC test within 48 hours before boarding: According to a circular released by the National Health Commission (NHC) on Friday, November 11, 2022, China will ease some of its COVID-19 rules to better balance COVID-19 prevention and control with economic and social development. Among others, the below adjustments have been introduced:
- For close contact and inbound travelers, the quarantine requirement will change from “7 days centralized quarantine + 3 days home health monitoring” to “5 days centralized quarantine + 3 days home quarantine”. Upon the completion of the quarantine at the first point of entry, the quarantine at the destination shall not be repeated for inbound travelers.
- The secondary close contacts will no longer be traced.
- For people passing through high-risk areas, the quarantine requirement will change from “7 days centralized quarantine” to “7 days home quarantine”.
- The three categories of “high-risk areas, medium-risk areas, low-risk areas” will be simplified to two categories—”high-risk areas and low-risk areas”.
- Areas that are not experiencing outbreaks are discouraged from mass testing.
- The circuit breaker mechanism for inbound flights will be abolished, and the requirement of “two negative nucleic acid tests within 48 hours before boarding” will be adjusted to “one negative nucleic acid test within 48 hours before boarding”.
- For important inbound business personnel and sports groups, etc., they shall be exempted from quarantine under a ” closed-loop bubble”, which means “point-to-point” transfer to the isolation free closed-loop management area.
- China shall intensify efforts to address the problem of “one-size-fits-all”. It is strictly prohibited to arbitrarily close schools and classes, suspend production, block traffic without approval, arbitrarily adopt “static management”, arbitrarily lock down, etc.
- During the COVID-19 outbreak, China shall make every effort to ensure smooth logistics. It is prohibited to arbitrarily ask key enterprises related to the overall industrial chain and affecting people’s livelihoods to suspend production.
- Guangzhou becomes a new epicenter in China and launches mass testing in 9 districts: On Tuesday, November 7, 2022, Guangzhou reported 114 confirmed cases and 2,263 asymptomatic cases, the third day in a row for the city to have more than 1,000 daily cases. Nine districts of Guangzhou shall launch mass testing to curb the spread of the virus, including Haizhu District, where more than 90 percent of the new cases were found. Haizhu will extend its lockdown to Friday, November 11.
- China weighs gradual relaxation of the zero-COVID policy but no immediate end is in sight: In a press conference held on July 23, 2022, Hu Xiang, an inspector from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that the National Health Commission (NHC) and the CDC will continue to guide all localities so they adhere to the general policy of ‘dynamic clearing’ and scientifically, accurately, and strictly implement various measures for epidemic prevention and control. Meanwhile, several cities were named and shamed at the conference for imposing a one-size-fits-all COVID-19 control policy, including the iPhone city Zhengzhou in Henan province. The city has recorded over 1,500 cases (200 confirmed and 1,300 asymptomatic ones) in the past two weeks, and a Foxconn plant in the city suffered production disruption and a chaotic exodus of panicked workers. Analysts believe this is a sign that China will gradually relax its zero-COVID policy, but expect no sudden shift. Investors are suggested to closely follow how top officials talk about COVID-19 management in the coming months.
- Hong Kong will soon allow inbound group travelers to enter designated tourist attractions during their three-day medical surveillance period: According to a government statement released on Monday, November 7, 2022, inbound tour group travelers who are received by licensed travel agents and have pre-registered their itineraries will soon be able to enter designated tourist attractions including theme parks, museums, and temples, and enter and dine in the partitioned areas in designated catering premises that meet special anti-epidemic requirements, during their three-day medical surveillance period. Currently, travelers are prohibited from entering premises such as restaurants, pubs, theme parks, and museums during the surveillance period. This is to “support the gradual resumption of the inbound travel market in an orderly manner and provide a more favorable business environment for the travel trade”, as mentioned in the government statement. The government didn’t provide a specific launch date but said the special arrangement will be launched this month.
- BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to become available for foreign residents in China. Various media have reported that China will allow foreign residents in China to be inoculated with the German company BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine, following a meeting between German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Chinese President Xi Jinping. In the meeting, which was the first in-person meeting between Xi Jinping and a German leader since the COVID-19 pandemic and Olaf Scholz’s first visit to China as chancellor, the German chancellor also urged China to also extend the vaccine to Chinese citizens. The program will mark the first foreign vaccine and the first mRNA vaccine to be made available in China. BioNTech has previously reached an agreement with Shanghai Fosun Pharma to set up a 50-50 joint venture to produce and sell mRNA vaccines in China, but the vaccine has not yet been approved by Chinese regulators for use in China. A spokesperson for BioNTech told Reuters that the vaccine would initially be imported.
- Inner Mongolia and Henan provinces said No to undifferentiated lockdown to restore vitality in cities: In a COVID-19-related meeting held on October 30, the Party Secretary of Inner Mongolia Sun Shaocheng emphasized that the COVID-19 prevention measures should be adopted as precise as possible, Inner Mongolia Daily reported. “The risk area should be defined accurately to the building, and the whole community should not be sealed up because of one or two cases. The control and restriction should not be indiscriminate and endless so that the city can gradually recover vitality”, Sun said. Henan Province major Wang Kai expressed similar opinions during a COVID-19 prevention and control meeting held on October 31, 2022, accordingly to Henan Daily.
- City of Nanjing imposes “temporary control areas” following outbreak in freight yard. Nanjing, the provincial capital of Jiangsu province, has designated certain areas of the city as “temporary control areas” after a COVID-19 outbreak was discovered at the Yaohuamen Station freight yard in a northeastern suburb. Several areas surrounding the station, including the core area of the Nanjing Economic and Technological Development Zone, a major manufacturing base, have been subjected to control measures from October 28 to November 2. As of October 27, 23 of Nanjing’s 24 new positive cases had been traced to the freight yard. Residents in the impacted areas are required to stay at home, while only authorized vehicles will be permitted to drive on the roads. Eligible or “whitelisted” companies and factories are permitted to operate under “closed loop” management, where employees are required to stay on-site.
- Shanghai Disneyland closes indefinitely from October 31. According to a notice, Shanghai Disney Resort will close Shanghai Disneyland, Disneytown, and Wishing Star Park from October 31 onward, with no date given for possible reopening. The theme parks are being closed in order to comply with local COVID-19 restrictions after a COVID-positive person had visited the park.
- Cities in China tighten controls to combat rising COVID-19 outbreaks. In an effort to stop spreading outbreaks, Chinese cities from Wuhan (in the center of the country) to Xining (in the northwest) are stepping up COVID-19 restrictions, closing off buildings, and shutting down entire districts. As of October 27, 2022, the country reported more than 1,000 new cases nationwide for the third day in a row. Wuhan, where the very first COVID-19 outbreak occurred in late 2019, reported 20 to 25 new cases daily this week. Local officials mandated that over 800,000 residents of one region remain at home until October 30. The authorities said that one of the COVID-19 cases was linked to the regional pork supply chain. Xining, the capital city of Qinghai, is also facing a resurgence of cases. As health officials in the 2.5 million-person city rushed to contain a COVID-19 comeback after the week-long National Day holiday in early October, social media posts warned of food shortages and price inflation for necessities.
- Guangzhou district suspends in-person schooling and dine-in. On October 24, 2022, 69 new cases were reported in Haizhu, a district in the heart of Guangzhou. To curb the new COVID-19 outbreak, the local government has implemented the following measures: kindergartens, primary and secondary school students will attend classes online; catering service units (including beverage shops, snack bars, breakfast shops, etc.) must suspend dine-in activities, and only provide take-outs and in-store pick ups.
- Ningbo Port gradually recovers after ship traffic hit by latest COVID-19 outbreak: After a COVID-19 outbreak was detected on October 13, 2022, and spread to the Beilun area of the Ningbo Port, the world’s largest port was not put under lockdown, but a decrease in productivity was observed, according to global maritime analytics provider Marine Traffic. To maintain stability in the supply chain, the Ningbo government implemented a series of measures to ensure smooth movement of goods to/from the port, including working of two-way green channels, port passes, and white list management of container truck drivers. On October 18, the drivers’ attendance rate increased by 20 percent as compared to the previous day. This rate increased again on October 19, 2022, by 30 percent.
- China Airlines to resume more international flights: In order to implement the State Council’s requirements for an orderly increase of international passenger flights as soon as possible, several airline companies in China have announced the resumption or increase in the number of international routes this month. Among them, China Eastern Airlines plans to increase its weekly international routes to 42 and flights to 108 flights from October 30, 2022, up from 25 routes and 54 flights in mid-October. In November, China Eastern Airlines will continue to resume and increase its international routes with Manila and Ho Chi Minh. China Southern Airlines announced that it would increase its weekly international flights from 71 to 86. Hainan Airlines plans to increase international flights between Chongqing and Rome to two a week from November 6, 2022. The official WeChat account of Air China also announced that it would resume several international routes. Spring Airlines, for its part, said on its official WeChat account on October 13 that it would start operating multiple routes with Hong Kong and Macao and other international routes from October 14, 2022. Juneyao Airlines also resumed or added some international routes in October with Seoul and Osaka. These moves are mostly to answer the demand for business travel and don’t mean that China will resume large-scale international travel soon, according to the Caixin report. China has gradually eased COVID-19 prevention measures for international travelers over the past few months. Nevertheless, the number of daily cross-border flights is only five percent of that in 2019.
- Yinchuan, Ningxia province implements classified COVID-19 management after three-day static management: Starting from October 17, 2022, Yinchuan shall implement different COVID-19 control measures based on the risk level of specific areas. Residents in the low-risk areas can go to work by holding a workplace paper certificate with the required info and promising they will only travel between home and workplace without visiting other places. They are required not to gather, not to eat together, and not to take public transportation. People who need to travel across the city have to hold a negative nucleic acid test certificate from the last 48 hours.
- Beijing imposes stricter testing requirements for new arrivals. Beijing now requires people arriving in Beijing to undergo self-isolation at home for three days upon arrival and take two rounds of tests during this period. The first test must be taken within 24 hours of arrival, and the second test must be taken after 48 hours and within 72 hours of arrival. People entering Beijing are also required to show a negative nucleic acid test from the last 48 hours. In addition, a number of the city’s museums, including the Temple of Confucius and Guozijian Museum, have issued a notice that they will refuse entry to any visitor who has been outside of Beijing in the last seven days, per inspection of their travel code. The city has begun to ramp up COVID-19 prevention measures after a recent uptick in case numbers, having recorded seven high-risk areas and seven medium-risk areas on October 13.
- China doubles down on zero-COVID policy after speculation restrictions will ease in 2023. In an interview with CCTV, Head of the National Health Commission’s expert group on epidemic control Liang Wannian reiterated the need to maintain zero-COVID, or “dynamic clearing”, in China because at present, China “cannot achieve a complete balance between the resistance of our health system and viral diseases” and that lifting of restrictions “will lead to a large number of infections, severe illness and death” which would “lead to a run on the medical system, which in turn will further aggravate people’s fears and have a greater impact on society and the economy”. When asked about a possible timeline for return to normal life, he said that “from a scientific point of view, it is difficult to clearly delineate a specific time period”.
- Shanghai imposes new testing requirements for people arriving in the city. As of October 10, all arrivals to the city of Shanghai will be required to undergo three days of nucleic acid tests, including one test within 24 hours of arrival. Those who do not comply with these requirements will have their travel code (随申吗) turned yellow. The announcement was made by the Director of the Municipal Big Data Center Shao Jun at a press conference on Shanghai’s COVID-19 pandemic control and comes after the city recorded 3 new confirmed cases and 31 asymptomatic infections on Sunday, October 9. As of October 10, Shanghai has also recorded 1 high-risk area in Jiading District and 34 medium-risk areas across 11 districts.
- Travel out of Xinjiang has been halted as officials concede to failings in managing the spread of new cases. Xinjiang has suspended all passenger train services leaving the province to stop the spread of COVID-19, as officials admit their inadequate actions have hampered attempts to contain the outbreak over the past two months. The province vice-chairman has admitted failures including low testing capacity and lack of professionalism among staff who became infected after mishandling samples. As of October 5, 2022, the province reported 91 new asymptomatic cases and recorded 54 high-risk and 25 medium-risk areas.
- Director of infectious disease department of CDC gives update on COVID-19 cases before the National Day holiday. At a press conference on September 29, Lei Zhenglong, director of the Department of Infectious Disease Prevention and Control of the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stated that the number of daily COVID-19 cases had dropped substantially in September compared to August. Currently, the main outbreaks are concentrated in Tibet, Ningxia, Guizhou, and Heilongjiang, among a few other provinces, with the Omicron variants BA.5 and BA.2.76 being the main strains present in the outbreak. Moreover, areas that had experienced relatively severe outbreaks, such as Hainan and Xinjiang, have succeeded in bringing down case numbers significantly, while Tibet and Guizhou have brought the outbreaks under control. The outbreaks in Ningxia and Heilongjiang, meanwhile, are still developing and the provinces are receiving help from the central government to deal with the situation.Ahead of the week-long National Holiday, starting on Saturday October 1, Lei Zhonglong also warned that the risk of further spread of the virus will increase as people travel and visit friends and relatives. This is despite the National Health Commission (NHC) previously urging people to stay home during the holiday period in order to prevent the spread of the virus.To this end, Lei Zhonglong called on all localities to “strengthen normalized prevention and control measures, guide the orderly flow of personnel, implement closed-loop management measures for employees in high-risk positions, and do a good job in the vaccination service of new coronavirus vaccines”.
- Hong Kong removes mandatory hotel quarantine for international arrivals, implements “0+3” policy. From Monday, September 26 onwards, international arrivals to Hong Kong will no longer be required to undergo three days of centralized hotel quarantine and will instead be permitted to undergo three days of self-monitoring at home. Passengers are still required to take a rapid antigen COVID-19 test prior to their departure and a PCR test after arriving in Hong Kong. They will also not be permitted to go to any restaurants or other indoor public areas and are required to undergo testing during this period. In addition, Hong Kong residents who have not been vaccinated will be permitted to return to Hong Kong, and passengers transiting through Hong Kong will no longer be required to have their temperature taken at the airport.
- China mulls reopening its border to some foreign tourists: China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism has released an exposure draft of the Measures for Border Tourism Administration, for public comment until September 29, 2022. According to the exposure draft, China will encourage its border areas to create distinctive border tourism destinations, specify that border tourism groups can flexibly choose entry and exit ports, and remove preconditions, such as border travel approval and some entry and exit document requirements. Some analysts believe it’s a positive sign that China will make it easier for foreigners to enter the country, though only foreign tourists as part of tour groups would be allowed to visit specific border tourism sites. More details are yet to be released regarding issues such as whether such tourists need to follow China’s quarantine requirements for inbound travelers.
- Trip.com says hotel bookings are surpassing pre-pandemic levels: According to Cindy Xiaofan Wang, chief financial officer at Trip.com, domestic China hotel reservations made through Trip.com have rebounded quickly, surpassing pre-COVID levels since late June. Also, same-city hotel bookings grew by 30 percent in the latest quarter as compared to 2019 levels, Trip.com added. However, the firm’s overall revenue in Q2 2022 still recorded a 32 percent decline YoY, likely due to the multiple COVID outbreaks and extended shutdowns.
- EU Chamber of Commerce in China does not anticipate a full reopening of the Chinese border until H2 2023: According to the European Business in China Position Paper 2022/2023 (Position Paper) released by the EU Chamber of Commerce in China on Wednesday, September 21, 2022, the Chamber does not anticipate a full reopening of the Chinese border until the second half of 2023. Given the COVID-19 control measures and the various geopolitical tensions, more and more European firms are taking the expensive and inefficient route of creating separate systems – one for China, and one for the rest of the world, the paper said. That said, the European business community still believes that China, as the world’s largest consumer goods market, has significant growth potential and that its manufacturing base and world-class industrial clusters would be difficult – if not impossible – to replicate elsewhere. The Chamber advocates that China continue the comprehensive market reforms, as it would be the most effective way for the country to realize its economic potential and quickly rebuild investor confidence.
- NHC encourages people to stay put during the National Day holiday: The National Health Commission (NHC), China’s health authority, has encouraged people not to leave their cities during the week-long National Day holiday that starts on October 1. Passengers who travel need to hold a negative nucleic acid test certificate from the recent 48 hours to take planes, high-speed trains, trains, inter-provincial long-distance passenger buses, inter-provincial passenger ships, and so on. The health code and a negative nucleic acid test from the recent 72 hours will be required when checking into hotels and entering crowded places such as tourist attractions. Construction workers returning from other provinces are required to have a negative nucleic acid test from the recent 48 hours. For necessary large-scale gathering activities such as training, exhibition, and artistic performance, participants shall scan the code for registration and provide a negative nucleic acid test certificate from the recent 48 hours. These COVID-19 prevention and control measures will be implemented until October 31, 2022.
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