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“Felt Like a Fever Dream”: ‘Zero Covid’ Comes to an End, China Prepares For Homecoming Rush

China no longer needs quarantine for arrivals as of Sunday, after officials abandoned a regulation that had been a key disincentive to travellers.
The long-awaited reopening of China’s borders – the final stage in the demolition of Covid Zero – is expected to unleash a homecoming rush for the diaspora, while a complete recovery in travel is likely to take longer.
China no longer mandates quarantine for arrivals as of Sunday, after officials abandoned the requirement, which, coupled with the excessive cost of flight fares under severe capacity limitations, was a key barrier for travellers. While entry into the nation will still need a 48-hour negative Covid test result, the significant relaxation of border controls only two weeks before the Lunar New Year vacation signifies the end of Beijing’s efforts to keep out a virus that has become acknowledged as endemic across the world.
The immediate effect is an influx of overseas Chinese returning home, many of whom have not seen family in years.
“I hadn’t been home in over two years, so the announcement seemed like a fever dream,” said Connor Zhao, a 25-year-old San Francisco consultant. He is now on vacation in Bangkok and will fly to Qingdao on January 19, with a stopover in Hong Kong, which has more accessible flights into the mainland.
“I’m looking forward to seeing my parents. It means a lot to me to be able to celebrate Chinese New Year with them “He stated.
However, the rush of visitors to the country is unlikely to be matched by an increase in demand for international travel. Chinese visitors, a $280 billion spending force in global vacation destinations from Paris to Tokyo, will take months, if not years, to recover to pre-pandemic levels.
Following an increase in infections, a number of nations imposed testing requirements on Chinese travellers, but airlines have been hesitant to make big modifications to their flight schedules, resulting in constrained capacity and high pricing.
“The inclination to travel has begun to substantially comeback among Chinese,” said Chen Xin, head of UBS Securities’ China leisure and transportation research. “However, it takes time for it to be reflected in outgoing travel routes.”
In June last year, the government began rolling back quarantine, which had been arbitrarily extended by local authorities in parts of China to nearly a month at some points during the pandemic, with the pace of change quickening after China abruptly abandoned domestic Covid control measures such as mass testing and lockdowns in the final months of 2022.

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