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Covid in China: Travelers book flight as borders reopen

People in China have rushed to book overseas travel after Beijing announced it would reopen in January.

Passport applications for Chinese citizens wishing to travel internationally will resume from January 8, the immigration administration said.

It follows an announcement on Monday that ended almost three years of strict quarantine rules for arrivals.

Travel sites have since reported a spike in traffic.

According to BBC, Chinese tourists will not have unfettered access to all countries.

Japan – one of the most popular destinations for Chinese travelers – has announced that all travelers from China must show a negative Covid test on arrival, or quarantine for seven days, because of the surge in cases there.

India has also said travelers from China (as well as some other countries) must show a negative Covid test when they arrive – though this was announced before Beijing’s easing of restrictions.

The easing of travel rules in China – the last part of the country’s zero-Covid policy – comes as the country battles a new wave of infections.

Resentment against the government’s policy, which sparked rare public protests against President Xi Jinping in November, led to a relaxation of Covid restrictions across the country.

But an increase in Covid cases followed, with reports of hospitals overwhelmed and a shortage of drugs.

The announcement on outbound travel on Tuesday came after Monday’s news, which axed quarantine rules for travelers arriving in China. It also scrapped a cap on the daily number of flights.

On the same day, the National Health Commission announced that Covid would be formally downgraded to a Class B infectious disease on January 8.

Before the relaxation of travel rules, people were strongly discouraged from traveling abroad. The sale of outbound group and package travel was banned, according to marketing solutions company Dragon Trail International.

Within half an hour of Monday’s notice that China’s borders would reopen, data from travel site Trip.com – cited in Chinese media – showed searches for popular destinations had increased tenfold year-on-year.

Macau, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand and South Korea were the most popular destinations.

Writing by Fany Olumoye; Editing by Tony Okerafor