China rushes to renew passports as COVID border curbs are lifted

China rushes to renew passports as COVID border curbs are lifted
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  • China lifts quarantine for visitors on Sunday
  • The latest move in facilitation that allows the virus to circulate freely
  • Many countries are requesting COVID testing from Chinese travelers
  • Chinese stocks, yuan rise on growth hopes

BEIJING, Jan 9 (Reuters) – People lined up outside immigration offices in Beijing on Monday to renew their passports after China lifted COVID border controls that had largely prevented its 1.4 billion residents from traveling for three years.

reopens on sunday It’s one of the latest steps in China’s path to liquidate its “zero COVID” regime that began last month after historic protests against the curbs that kept the virus at bay but caused widespread public disappointment.

Retired Yang Jianguo, 67, with more than 100 people waiting in line to renew their passports in the Chinese capital, told Reuters that he plans to travel to the United States to see his daughter for the first time in three years.

Standing next to his wife, Yang said, “She got married last year, but had to postpone the wedding because we couldn’t go to attend. We are so glad we can go now.”

China’s foreign exchange and equity markets strengthened on Monday as investors believe reopening could help reinvigorate a $17 trillion economy that is experiencing its lowest growth in nearly half a century.

Beijing’s move to lift quarantine requirements for visitors is expected to increase outbound travel, as residents will not face these restrictions when they return.

But flights are scarce and many countries are requesting negative tests from visitors from China in an effort to contain an outbreak that has hit most hospitals and crematoriums in China. China is also requiring passengers to have negative pre-departure COVID tests.

China’s top health officials and state media have repeatedly said that COVID infections have peaked across the country, and they have underestimated the threat the disease currently poses.

“Life is moving forward again!” in an editorial late Sunday praising the government’s virus policies, which it said was moving from “preventing infection” to “preventing serious diseases”, the Communist Party’s official newspaper, People’s Daily.

“Today the virus is weak, we are stronger.”

Officially, China has only reported 5,272 COVID-related deaths as of January 1. 8, one of the lowest death rates from infection in the world.

But the World Health Organization said China underreported the scale of the epidemic, and international virus experts estimated that more than a million people in the country could die from the disease this year.

Putting these pessimistic forecasts aside, Asian stock markets climbed to a five-month high on Monday, while the Chinese yuan rose to its strongest level since mid-August against the dollar.

China’s blue chip index (.CSI300) Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.7% (.SSEC) It rose 0.5% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index (.HSI) It rose 1.6%.

“The end of the zero-COVID-19 policy … will have a huge positive impact on domestic spending,” UBS group CEO Ralph Hamers said at the Swiss bank’s annual Greater China conference on Monday.

“We believe there is a lot of opportunity for those who are determined to invest in China.”


Michael Harrold, 61, a text editor in Beijing, told Reuters: “It’s a great relief to be able to get back to normal… at Beijing Capital International Airport on Sunday, after arriving by plane from Warsaw.

Harrold said he predicted that when he went to Europe for the Christmas holidays in early December, he would have to quarantine and do a few rounds of testing on his return.

State broadcaster CCTV reported on Sunday that direct flights from South Korea to China are on the verge of running out. The report quickly became the most read item on the Chinese social media site Weibo.

In the near term, a limited number of flights to and from China, currently at a fraction of pre-COVID levels, will curb the spike in demand from travelers.

Flight Master data showed China had a total of 245 international inbound and outbound flights on Sunday – a 91% decrease, compared to 2,546 same-day flights in 2019.

Korean Air said earlier this month that it had halted its plan to increase flights to China due to Seoul’s cautious stance towards Chinese passengers. South Korea, like many other countries, now requires travelers from China, Macau and Hong Kong to provide negative COVID test results before departure.

Taiwan began testing those arriving from China on January 1. About 20% of those tested so far have been positive for COVID, 1 said on Monday.

China’s domestic tourism revenue in 2023 is expected to reach 70-75% of pre-Covid levels, but the number of inbound and outbound travel is projected to recover only to 30-40% of pre-Covid levels this year, China News reported. . Sunday.

News by Yew Lun Tian, ​​Liz Lee, Josh Arslan, Eduardo Baptista and Sophie Yu from Beijing; Ben Blanchard in Taipei; Written by John Geddie; Edited by Raju Gopalakrishnan

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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