China eases travel requirements for for inbound overseas travelers by adjusting some of the pre-departure COVID-19 test policies. We discuss the new guidelines and provide information based on announcements released by multiple Chinese embassies, including the Chinese embassy in the United States.
People travelling to China will only be required to perform two nucleic acid tests 48 hours before their flight and one antigen test 12 hours before boarding under the new guidelines announced on May 19, 2022, by several Chinese embassies overseas. Those who test negative will receive a health code and will be permitted to board the plane. For individuals who have recovered from the infection, there will be no extra requirements.
Aside from the Chinese Embassy in the United States, Chinese embassies in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the Netherlands, Ireland, Denmark, Serbia, and Rwanda have made similar changes to the conditions for travel to China. Below we provide a complete list of the main changes announced by such countries.
According to notice from the Chinese embassy and consulates in the United States, travellers from the US no longer need an RT-PCR test seven days before travelling, starting May 20, 2022. Antibody test requirements have also been eliminated. Regardless of whether they have been vaccinated or with which vaccination, passengers will be required to take two COVID-19 tests from two different testing sites within 48 hours and one antigen test within 12 hours of boarding the aircraft. Crew members will no longer need to undergo supplementary quarantine and will be able to enter China as normal passengers. The notice includes a list of the current approved direct flights between China and the US, which you can see in our tracker here.
The Chinese embassy in the UAE eliminated the requirement for two nucleic acid tests 21 and 14 days before travel, as well as the that for Serum IgM testing, regardless of the passenger’s vaccination status – with an important exception for Ethiad Airways, which still requires travellers to China to undergo serum IgM antibody testing within 48 hours before departure. Recovered patients no longer need to present CT or X-ray testing before departure. All passengers are still required to show two negative PCR tests within 48 and 12 hours before departure.
Before boarding, all foreign passengers going to China must provide a QR code with the Health Declaration Code (HDC) mark released by the Chinese embassy in the Netherlands, as well as an original antigen test certificate (if applicable) issued by institutions authorized by the same embassy – list available here.
The Chinese embassy in Serbia withdrew the demand for a health code application for people who have been vaccinated for less than 14 days, effective May 18, 2022. Passengers are still required to complete a double PCR testing within 48 and 24 hours from departure, as well as an antigen rapid test 12 hours before.
The Chinese embassy in Denmark announced that starting from May 18, 2022, all China-bound passengers from Denmark, including those who have not inoculated (or fully inoculated) with COVID-19 vaccines, are required to take two PCR tests instead of “PCR + IgM Antibody” tests.
According to the latest notice, effective May 18, 2022, testing criteria for China-bound travellers (regardless of their vaccination status) include two nucleic acid PCR tests, completed within 48 and 24 hours before boarding, respectively, and one rapid antigen test, within 12 hours of boarding. IgM antibody testing is no longer required for non-vaccinated travelers. Moreover, passengers departing from Rwanda to China can transit only one time.
Travel to and from China has decreased as the nation implements a “dynamic COVID zero” approach, which includes limitations on passport issuance and renewal, mandatory quarantine for most visitors upon arrival, and airline cancellations. However, since the Omicron variant presents a reduced incubation period, international air travel has picked up, including the movement of China-bound passengers.
Accordingly, experts feel that the latest policy adjustments for travellers are unlikely to jeopardize China’s domestic COVID-19 fight in any way. Indeed, since the incubation period for the latest Omicron strain appears to be as short as two or three days, test results released within 48 hours of departure are sufficient to monitor possible contagions, compared to tests performed 7 or 14 days in advance. It has also been pointed out that the immunization rate of Chinese people living abroad, particularly students, is already quite high given the levels of vaccination and the previous spread of the COVID-19 variants.
The Chinese government has altered the COVID-19 playbook multiple times to maximize the antiviral measures while adhering to the dynamic zero-COVID policy, which epidemiologists say best suits China. Indeed, already in early May, Beijing announced the official implementation of the shorter quarantine regime, also motivated by the Omicron variant’s shorter incubation period. The policy change was aimed to ease the strain of quarantine on medical and facility resources and will serve as a model for lowering COVID-19 measures further.
According to our analysis, the altered pre-entry testing and post-entry isolation are not likely to have a substantial influence on the domestic epidemic prevention scenario in China, given both the short incubation time and mild symptoms of Omicron. While it is uncertain how the government will respond in the future to the challenges posed by the ongoing pandemic, the latest policy amendments can be read as a clear sign of the willingness of opening and ease travel restrictions, gradually, and in conformity with the gravity of the overall COVID-19 situation, both domestically and abroad.
China Briefing is written and produced by Dezan Shira & Associates. The practice assists foreign investors into China and has done so since 1992 through offices in Beijing, Tianjin, Dalian, Qingdao, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Suzhou, Guangzhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong. Please contact the firm for assistance in China at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dezan Shira & Associates has offices in Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, United States, Germany, Italy, India, and Russia, in addition to our trade research facilities along the Belt & Road Initiative. We also have partner firms assisting foreign investors in The Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Bangladesh.
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