China Drops Covid P.C.R. Test Rule for Inbound Travelers

BEIJING — China mentioned on Tuesday that it will not require vacationers getting into the nation to point out a damaging P.C.R. check for the coronavirus, one other step towards reopening after a protracted interval of pandemic-era isolation.

However it was not clear whether or not testing necessities can be abolished altogether. A spokeswoman for China’s overseas ministry mentioned solely that, starting on April 29, folks going to China “can” take an antigen check to “change” the beforehand mandated P.C.R. check inside 48 hours earlier than boarding their flight.

Airways wouldn’t test check outcomes earlier than boarding, the spokeswoman, Mao Ning, added at a repeatedly scheduled information briefing. She didn’t say whether or not others, reminiscent of immigration officers, would test.

Notices by Chinese language embassies abroad mentioned that vacationers arriving in China would nonetheless must fill out a well being declaration kind, and that customs officers would conduct unspecified spot checks.

For 3 years, China imposed the world’s strictest coronavirus restrictions, implementing lockdowns and common mass testing within the identify of “zero Covid.” Then, the federal government abruptly deserted these guidelines in December because the economic system sagged, the virus unfold extensively and protests broke out throughout the nation. Beijing has since declared that it’s open to the world, and tried to woo overseas businesspeople and diplomats.

In follow, the reopening has been slowed, partially, by geopolitical tensions. Vacationer visas weren’t reinstated till final month. Worldwide flights stay prohibitively costly for a lot of, usually costing hundreds of {dollars}. The US and China haven’t but lifted tit-for-tat caps that they imposed on routes between their two international locations in the course of the pandemic.

Testing necessities additionally grew to become politicized. In January, because the coronavirus unfold extensively throughout China, a number of international locations, together with the US, Japan and South Korea, introduced necessary checks for inbound vacationers from China. China, in response, doubled down on its requirement for vacationers from these international locations — and in addition suspended the issuance of some visas for Japanese and South Koreans. (South Korea had additionally suspended some visas for Chinese language vacationers.)

The US, Japan and South Korea not require any pre-departure checks for vacationers arriving from China, however China had not modified its rule till Tuesday.

Vacationers from different international locations to China, in the meantime, had been allowed to take antigen checks.

In the future earlier than the rule change was introduced, Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for international well being on the Council on International Relations, had known as for the abolition of the P.C.R. check requirement, noting that it was pricey and time-consuming for a lot of vacationers, and was motivated by a “predominance of geopolitical concerns.”

The rule “can’t be justified on public well being grounds, and it’s alienating the Chinese language diaspora abroad, impeding China’s tourism business, and hindering China’s post-Covid reopening efforts,” Mr. Huang wrote in a weblog submit on the New York-based council’s web site.

China has insisted all alongside that its Covid measures had been purely pushed by science. In her announcement, Ms. Mao, the overseas ministry spokeswoman, mentioned China would “proceed to scientifically optimize” its guidelines.

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