China has dropped nearly all of the Covid testing and quarantine rules that have made traveling to the People’s Republic so difficult for the past three years.
The general obligation to spend days in a state quarantine center followed by self-isolation in a hotel or at home has been lifted.
At the same time, Chinese citizens are now allowed to travel abroad for leisure.
But with the exception of Hong Kong and Macau Special Autonomous Regions, tourists are not yet allowed to enter.
These are the most important questions and answers.
Which foreigners are allowed to enter mainland China?
- Family members of Chinese citizens (or Chinese permanent residents) who wish to visit.
- Persons with a work permit – typically for English teachers.
- Business travelers who have an official invitation issued by a State Office of Foreign Affairs or a Department of Commerce.
- Applicants who qualify for a transport crew visa, typically flight crew.
What hurdles do they have to overcome to enter mainland China?
Anyone traveling to China must submit a negative PCR test result taken within 48 hours prior to arrival and fill out a health declaration form through the China Customs website.
There is no obligation to provide proof of vaccination.
“Passengers entering China and showing symptoms of fever or an abnormal health declaration may be asked to take an antigen test on arrival,” says the UK Foreign Office.
“Those who test positive will be released into self-quarantine if symptoms are mild, or are advised to go to a medical facility for diagnosis and treatment if symptoms are more severe.”
How strict are the Covid controls in China?
Much easier than they were. While masks are still officially mandatory in many areas, including public transport, anecdotal reports suggest the obligation is largely ignored.
The Foreign Office says: “Covid-19 test results are still required for access to nursing homes, medical facilities, childcare facilities and schools.”
Will it be easy for me to get a flight?
Not necessarily. Only a fraction of normal UK-China flights operate. American Express Global Business Travel’s Dan Beauchamp told Skift’s travel news site: “We expect international capacity to recover slowly from approximately 12 percent of available seat miles for 2019 in the first half of this year.
“As a result, international flight opportunities are likely to be limited and prices high, and the situation is not likely to improve significantly in the short to medium term.”
Can I transfer at a Chinese airport without any formalities?
Currently not. All travelers entering China must fully comply with immigration requirements. “There are no exceptions to this and airside transit is currently not permitted,” the Foreign Office said.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, Chinese airlines offered the cheapest options from the UK to Southeast Asia and Australia. Only when transit is allowed again will these bargains return.
How normal is life in China?
The Federal Foreign Office warns: “The possibility remains that local authorities will impose compulsory lockdowns in response to new outbreaks. Such lockdowns can disrupt medical and other essential services, including food deliveries.
“You should ensure you have prepared additional food, water and medical supplies in case you are instructed to isolate on site.”
Anyone in need of medical treatment is warned: “China is currently experiencing a large number of Covid-19 cases; Medical facilities in some parts of the country, including Beijing, are operating at or near full capacity.
“Access to treatment, including critical care, may be delayed or restricted.”
What rules apply to onward travel?
Many countries have travel restrictions on arrivals from the People’s Republic – some only from mainland China, others also from Hong Kong and Macau.
Travelers returning to England must undergo a PCR or lateral flow/rapid antigen test two days prior to departure.
Arrivals from China landing at London Heathrow can also voluntarily undergo a PCR test on arrival, at the expense of the UK government.