A flood of people returning home is expected due to China’s long-awaited border reopening, which is the last phase in the deconstruction of Covid Zero. However, it may take some time for transport to recover fully.
After officials abandoned the rule, a key barrier for travelers combined with the expensive expense of air travel under severe capacity restrictions, China will no longer need quarantine for arrivals as of this Sunday. The significant relaxation of border controls just two weeks before the Lunar New Year holiday signals the end of Beijing’s efforts to keep out a virus that has come to be recognized as endemic throughout the world, even though those wishing to enter the country will still need to have a 48-hour negative Covid test result.
Chinese who have been living abroad returning home in large numbers, many of whom have not seen relatives in years, is the immediate effect.
The Homecoming rush after Covid
Connor Zhao, a 25-year-old consultant who resides in San Francisco, said that because it had been over two years since he had returned home, the announcement had seemed like a fever dream. He is now on vacation in Bangkok and will go to Qingdao on January 19, stopping in Hong Kong along the way because there are more flights into the mainland from there.
“I can hardly wait to visit my folks. It means a lot to me to be able to celebrate Chinese New Year with them, “added he.
But it’s doubtful that the increase in demand for international travel will match the number of tourists in the nation. It will take months, if not years, for the flow of Chinese visitors, who were once a $280 billion spending force in popular tourist destinations throughout the world from Paris to Tokyo, to return to its pre-pandemic levels.
Following an increase in infections, several nations have established testing requirements for visitors from China. However, airlines have been unwilling to make significant modifications to their flight schedules right once, so capacity is still limited, and costs are high.
Among Chinese people, “travel propensity has started to revive firmly,” according to Chen Xin, director of UBS Securities’ China leisure and transport research. However, it takes some time to show up on the outgoing travel routes.
The closing of Covid Zero, a policy that isolated the second-largest economy in the world for three years and had a negative impact on the economy, is marked by the opening of China’s borders. While the precautions successfully contained the virus for a large portion of the pandemic while it killed millions elsewhere, they lost relevance when more contagious strains emerged, making the elimination of the coronavirus all but impossible.
The speed of change quickened after China unexpectedly abandoned domestic Covid control efforts, including mass testing and lockdowns in the last months of 2022. Quarantine was extended arbitrarily by local authorities in various regions of China for over a month several times during the epidemic.
More than a year after early Covid Zero supporters, including Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand, began visa-free international travel, it is the final nation to do so.
The arrival of international flights
Given the lack of direct flights from international locations to mainland cities, most of the first incoming flow is anticipated to arrive through Hong Kong, where a large portion of the diaspora would travel. Although officials have pledged that capacity would be increased over time, there has been a rush to secure slots in the daily quota of around 60,000 individuals allowed to go north from the financial center, including 50,000 across the land borders that separate the two areas.
In the short term, measures like near-universal mask-wearing and the necessity for a negative PCR test may serve as a barrier when it comes to the reintroduction of international and commercial visitors to China. However, China has re-joined the rest of the globe for the first time since the virus first appeared in Wuhan in late 2019.