China opens borders for final farewell to zero-COVID by Reuters
#China #opens #borders #final #farewell #zeroCOVID #Reuters Welcome to Alaska Green Light Blog, here is the new story we have for you today:
©Reuters. Passengers arriving on international flights wait in line next to a police officer wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) and talk to a woman at the airport in Chengdu, China January 6, 2023. REUTERS/Staff 2/2
By Joyce Zhou and Brenda Goh
HONG KONG/SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Travelers began pouring into mainland China via land and sea crossings from Hong Kong on Sunday, many eager for long-awaited reunions, as Beijing opened borders that have been all but closed since the start of COVID. 19 pandemic.
After three years, the mainland is opening its border with Hong Kong and ending mandatory quarantine for incoming travelers, dismantling a final pillar of a zero-COVID policy that had protected Chinese people from the virus but also cut them off from the rest of the world.
China’s relaxation of one of the world’s toughest COVID regimes last month followed historic protests against policies that included frequent testing, restrictions on movement and mass lockdowns that severely damaged the second-largest economy.
“I’m so happy, so happy, so excited. I haven’t seen my parents in many years,” Hong Kong resident Teresa Chow said as she and dozens of other travelers prepared to enter mainland China from Hong Kong’s Lok Ma Chau checkpoint early Sunday.
“My parents aren’t in good health and I couldn’t even visit them when they had colon cancer, so I’m really happy to go back and see them now,” she said, adding that she plans to go to her hometown in the eastern Chinese city of Ningbo.
Investors are hoping the reopening will eventually revitalize a $17 trillion economy suffering from its lowest growth in nearly half a century. But the abrupt reversal has unleashed a massive wave of infections, overwhelming some hospitals and causing business disruption.
The border opening follows Saturday’s start of “chun yun,” the first 40-day Lunar New Year travel period, which before the pandemic was the world’s largest annual migration of people returning to their hometowns for family vacations. Around 2 billion people are expected to travel this season, nearly doubling and recovering to 70% of 2019 levels, the government says.
Many Chinese are also expected to travel abroad, a long-awaited shift for tourist attractions in countries like Thailand and Indonesia, although several governments – concerned about China’s COVID spike – are imposing restrictions on travelers from the country.
Travel will not quickly return to pre-pandemic levels due to factors including a lack of international flights, analysts say.
China also resumed issuing passports and travel visas for mainland residents and ordinary visas and residence permits for foreigners on Sunday. Beijing has quotas on the number of people allowed to travel between Hong Kong and China each day.
Videos posted to Chinese social media showed workers at Shanghai’s Pudong Airport overnight dismantling light blue panels marking routes through the international terminal in a bid to enforce a regime that allowed travelers from abroad up to eight days after their arrival Had to quarantine on arrival.
Other videos showed people emotionally hugging as they reunited at the airport gate.
At the Lok Ma Chau checkpoint in Hong Kong, a driver who gave only his last name, Yip, said he was among those who couldn’t wait to travel to the mainland.
“It’s been three years, we have no time to hesitate,” he said.