Chinese rush to renew passports as COVID border curbs lifted

  • China lifted quarantine for visitors on Sunday
  • Last move of relief that has let the virus run free
  • Several nations require COVID tests from travelers from China
  • Chinese stocks and yuan rally on growth hopes

BEIJING, Jan 9 (Reuters) – People joined long lines outside immigration offices in Beijing on Monday, eager to renew their passports after China abandoned COVID-19 border controls that had largely prevented its 1.4 billion residents travel for three years.

Sunday’s reopening is one of the latest steps in China’s dismantling of its “zero-Covid-19” regime, which began last month after historic protests against curbs that kept the virus at bay but caused a widespread frustration among his people.

Waiting to renew his passport in a line of more than 100 people in the Chinese capital, 67-year-old retiree Yang Jianguo told Reuters he planned to travel to the United States to see his daughter for the first time in three years

“He got married last year, but he had to postpone the wedding ceremony because we couldn’t go and attend. We are very happy that we can go now,” said Yang, with his wife .

China’s currency and stock markets strengthened on Monday as investors bet the reopening could help reinvigorate a $17 trillion economy suffering its slowest growth in nearly half a century.

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Beijing’s decision to remove quarantine requirements for visitors is expected to boost outbound travel, as residents will not face such restrictions when they return.

But flights are few and far between, and several nations are asking visitors to China to test negative, seeking to contain an outbreak that is overwhelming many of China’s hospitals and crematoria. China also requires negative COVID tests before travelers depart.

China’s top health officials and state media have repeatedly said that COVID infections are peaking across the country and that they are downplaying the threat the disease now poses.

“Life is moving forward again!” the Communist Party’s official newspaper, the People’s Daily, wrote in an editorial praising the government’s virus policies late Sunday, which it said had moved from “preventing infection ” to “prevent serious diseases”.

“Today, the virus is weak, we are stronger.”

Officially, China has only reported 5,272 COVID-related deaths as of January 8, one of the lowest death rates from the infection in the world.

But the World Health Organization has said China is underreporting the scale of the outbreak, and international virus experts estimate more than a million people in the country could die from the disease this year.

Shrugging off those gloomy forecasts, Asian shares rose to a five-month high on Monday, while China’s yuan consolidated at its strongest level against the dollar since mid-August.

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China’s blue-chip index (.CSI300) gained 0.7%, while the Shanghai Composite (.SSEC) rose 0.5% and the Hang Seng Index (.HSI) of Hong Kong rose 1.6%.

“The end of the zero-Covid policy … will have a huge positive impact on domestic spending,” Ralph Hamers, UBS’s group chief executive, told the Swiss bank’s annual Greater China conference on Monday.

“We believe there are many opportunities for those who commit to investing in China.”


“It’s such a relief just to be able to go back to normal … just to go back to China, get off the plane, get a taxi and go home,” Michael Harrold, 61, a copy editor, told Reuters in Beijing Sunday at Beijing Capital International Airport after arriving on a flight from Warsaw.

Harrold said he had expected to have to quarantine and undergo several rounds of tests upon his return when he left for Europe for the Christmas holidays in early December.

State broadcaster CCTV reported on Sunday that direct flights from South Korea to China were about to sell out. The report quickly became the most-read article on Chinese social media site Weibo.

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In the short term, an increase in traveler demand will be hampered by the limited number of flights there from China, which are currently at a small fraction of pre-Covid levels.

Flight Master data showed that China had a total of 245 inbound and outbound international flights on Sunday, compared with 2,546 flights on the same day in 2019, a 91% drop.

Korean Air said earlier this month it was halting a plan to increase flights to China because of Seoul’s cautious stance toward Chinese travelers. South Korea, like many other countries, now requires travelers from China, Macau and Hong Kong to provide negative COVID test results before departure.

Taiwan, which began testing arrivals from China on January 1, said on Monday that nearly 20% of those tested so far had tested positive for COVID.

China’s domestic tourism receipts by 2023 are expected to recover to 70-75% of pre-Covid-19 levels, but the number of inbound and outbound trips is expected to recover to only 30-40 % of pre-Covid-19 levels this year, China News reported. Sunday.

Reporting by Yew Lun Tian, ​​Liz Lee, Josh Arslan, Eduardo Baptista and Sophie Yu in Beijing; Ben Blanchard in Taipei; Written by John Geddie; Edited by Raju Gopalakrishnan

Our standards: the Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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