China has said it will scrap quarantine for travellers from 8 January, marking the last major shift from the country’s zero-Covid policy.
After almost three years of closed borders, Chinese officials say they will reopen the country to those with work and study visas, or seeking to visit family.
The announcement comes as China struggles with the virus’s spread in the wake of restrictions being lifted this month following protests by millions of citizens in November.
Beijing had reported about 4,000 new Covid infections each day last week and few deaths but health officials believe the true COVID-19 toll is in millions because officials have stopped releasing Covid data.
China is the last major economy in the world to move to “living with Covid” after three years of lockdowns, closed borders and mandatory quarantine for Covid cases and contacts.
Since March 2020, anyone entering China had to undergo mandatory quarantine at a state facility – for up to three weeks at a time. That was recently reduced to five days.
But on Monday the National Health Commission announced that Covid would be formally downgraded to a Class B infectious disease on 8 January.
That meant quarantine would be axed – although incoming travellers will still need to take a PCR test – and a cap on the daily number of flights allowed into China would also be scrapped.
On Monday, December 26, President Xi issued his first remarks on the changes, calling on officials to do what was “feasible” to save lives. State media quoted him saying the country faced a new situation with pandemic control, and needed a more targeted response.