As of Wednesday, China will no longer require incoming travelers to have a negative COVID-19 test result. This is a milestone in the country's reopening to the rest of the world after a three-year isolation that began when the country's borders closed in March 2020.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin announced the change at a briefing in Beijing on Monday.
China lifted the quarantine requirement for its citizens arriving from abroad in January, and in recent months has gradually expanded the list of countries Chinese can travel to and increased the number of international flights.
Beijing only ended its strict domestic “zero-COVID” policy in December, after years of draconian restrictions that at times included full city lockdowns and lengthy quarantines for those infected.
The restrictions slowed the world's second largest economy, leading to rising unemployment and rare civil unrest.
As part of these measures, arriving travelers have been forced to isolate themselves in government-designated hotels for weeks.
China reopens to tourists and resumes all visas after COVID-19 lockdowns
In November, protests erupted in major cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Nanjing over the COVID restrictions, posing the most direct challenge to Communist Party rule since the 1989 Tiananmen protests.
In early December, authorities abruptly scrapped most COVID controls, sparking a wave of infections that swept hospitals and morgues.
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A study funded by the US federal government this month found that the abrupt scrapping of the “zero-COVID” policy may have resulted in nearly 2 million additional deaths over the following two months. That figure far exceeds official estimates of 60,000 deaths within a month of restrictions being lifted.
During the ‘COVID Zero' years, local authorities occasionally imposed temporary lockdowns to isolate infections. People were trapped in offices and apartment buildings. In some cases, widely discussed on social media, authorities sealed residents' doors with wires and bolts to prevent the virus from spreading.
From April to June last year, the city of Shanghai locked down its 25 million residents in one of the world's largest pandemic-related mass lockdowns. Residents had to undergo frequent PCR tests and relied on government food supplies, which were often described as inadequate.
Throughout the pandemic, Beijing presented its “zero-COVID” policy – and initially relatively low infection numbers – as an example of the superiority of China's political system over that of Western democracies.
Caroline Chen, news assistant at the Associated Press in Beijing, contributed to this report.
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