Beijing – After China lifted COVID border control, nearly all of China’s 1.4 billion citizens were unable to travel for three years and formed long lines at Beijing immigration offices Monday.
Sunday’s reopening represents one of the last steps towards China’s end of its “zeroCOVID” system. This was implemented last month in the wake of historic protests against curbs, which kept the virus at bay but created widespread frustration among its citizens.
Yang Jianguo, 67 years old retired Chinese citizen, told Reuters he was waiting in line to renew his passport.
“She got married last summer, but we were unable to make it to the wedding ceremony. Yang stood beside his wife and said, “We’re very happy we can now get there.”
China’s currency strengthened and the stock market rose on Monday. Investors bet that the reopening will help to revive a $17 trillion economy that has experienced its lowest growth for nearly 50 years.
Beijing’s decision not to impose quarantine restrictions on visitors to its territory is expected to increase outbound travel. Residents will not be subject to these restrictions when they return.
Unfortunately, there are few flights and many nations require negative tests for visitors from China. They are trying to control an epidemic in China that has overtaken many hospitals and crematoriums. China requires that all travellers undergo pre-departure COVID testing.
China’s top health officials, as well as state media, have stated repeatedly that COVID infections are increasing in China and are trying to minimize the risk.
“Life is moving ahead again!” The People’s Daily (official newspaper of the Communist Party), published an editorial praising Sunday’s government’s viral policies. They said they have moved from “preventing disease” to “preventing infection”.
“Today the virus is weak. We are stronger.”
Officially, China has reported just 5,272 deaths due to COVID since Jan. 8. This is the lowest number of cases of infection worldwide.
However, the World Health Organization claims that China is not reporting the extent of the virus outbreak. International virus experts also estimate that the disease could kill more than 1 million people this year.
Rejecting the gloomy predictions, Asian shares rose to a five-month peak on Monday. Meanwhile, China’s yuan strengthened to its strongest level since mid-August.
China’s blue-chip index grew 0.7%, while Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.5%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index increased 1.6%.
Ralph Hamers (group chief executive officer at UBS), stated Monday that ending the zero COVID policy “is… going have a major positive effect on domestic spending.”
“We believe there’s a lot to be done in China for investors.”
“It’s a tremendous relief just to be able back to normal… just get back to China and get yourself a taxi, and just go home,” Michael Harrold (61), a Beijing copy editor, told Reuters on Sunday at Beijing Capital International Airport after he flew from Warsaw.
Harrold explained that he had anticipated having to perform several rounds of testing upon his return from Europe, where he would be spending Christmas break.
CCTV reported Sunday that direct flights connecting South Korea and China were in danger of being sold out. It quickly became the most popular item on Chinese social media site Weibo.
A shortage of flights from China will hinder a rise in travellers’ demand.
Flight Master data showed that China had 245 outbound and inbound international flights Sunday, compared to 2,546 flights in the same day of 2019 – a decline of 91%.
Korean Air announced earlier this month it would not be increasing flights to China as a result of Seoul’s cautious approach to Chinese travelers. South Korea, like many other countries, now requires all travellers from China Macau and Hong Kong not to submit COVID tests before they depart.
Taiwan, which began testing China’s arrivals in January 1, announced Monday that close to 20% of the people tested were positive for COVID.
China’s domestic tourist revenue is expected in 2023 to rebound to 70-75% pre-COVID levels. However, the number and frequency of inbound and outside trips are forecast to decline to only 30-40% this year, China News reported.