Beijing: Several countries around the world have tightened the Covid-19 restrictions as China re-opened its borders and resumed air travel on Sunday. The Chinese government’s move to reopen its borders has instilled fear about a Covid surge as millions of local Chinese travellers are set to make overseas trips in the next few days. The world’s populous country, which is reeling under the impact of the Covid spike, is entering the Lunar New Year this month which will see millions of its citizens travelling within the country from megacities to the countryside.
According to China`s Ministry of Transport, more than two billion passengers are expected to take trips over the next 40 days. China on Saturday marked the first day of “Chun Yun”, the 40-day period of Lunar New Year travel. This has led to widespread concerns that the festival may see another wave of infections, especially in rural areas that are less well-equipped with ICU beds and ventilators.
Global Times reported that the downgrading management of Covid-19 officially took effect on Sunday and the inbound quarantine for international arrivals was cancelled. “The order numbers for international flights recorded a year-on-year growth of 628 per cent, reaching the highest since March 2020, data from online travel agency LY.com showed,” said the report.
Among the surging orders, the numbers of inbound and outbound flights account for 48 per cent and 52 per cent, respectively. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region became the top destination for inbound tickets on Sunday, with flight orders from Hong Kong to the Chinese mainland rising 62 per cent from the previous day.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) announced that international flights can directly land in Beijing without being redirected to other entry points. Some 18 international flights, majorly from Hong Kong, were expected to arrive in Beijing on Sunday.
Earlier, most border checkpoints in Hong Kong were closed due to the outbreak of the coronavirus in early 2020. People could enter mainland China only through the city`s airport or checkpoints on the bridges Shenzhen Bay and Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau, after which they were obliged to stay in quarantine. Hong Kong and China authorities have now agreed to a daily quota, according to which 50,000 people per day can now cross the border through ground checkpoints in both directions.
Shenzhen and Hong Kong will review the first phase of border reopening in a week. On the basis of the consensus reached by both sides, the arrangement of the second phase will be announced.
With China and Hong Kong resuming regular passenger traffic from Sunday, ending almost three years of self-imposed Covid-19-related restrictions, the European Union has “strongly” recommended that all member states insist on negative Covid tests from Chinese arrivals before they travel, according to a BBC report. France, Spain and Italy have already introduced testing but others such as Germany had been monitoring the situation.
England, outside the EU, requires pre-flight testing on China arrivals. The US has imposed mandatory Covid-19 tests on travellers from China beginning January 5.
India has mandated a Covid-19 negative test report for travellers arriving from China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Thailand. Air travellers to Canada from China must test negative for Covid-19 no more than two days before departure. China is currently seeing a surge in Covid cases, with reports of hospitals and crematoriums being overwhelmed.
(With IANS Inputs)
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