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China has imposed a “Zero COVID” policy since March 2020, in order to try and prevent the spread of the virus and keep the number of cases in the country as close to zero as possible.

This policy has been largely successful with the number of COVID cases in China currently running far below that of many other countries.

However, despite this success, the Chinese government have not relaxed their entry requirement rules and instead has reduced the number of international flight routes arriving in the country, increased the length of quarantine on arrival and amped up domestic protection measures.

So, how can foreign travellers enter China and what can you expect COVID-19 policy-wise when you are there?

Flights to China

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) announced on October 29th 2021 that it would be reducing the number of international passenger flights it would be allowed in and out of ht country to just 408 per week – which still sounds like a lot but is a 21% reduction on the same period in 2020.

China Travel Restrictions

As you can see, the Chinese government has imposed strict restrictions on international travel since the outbreak of COVID, although the restrictions have been loosened and tightened many times since then in response to the changing pandemic situation.

Shanghai has been experiencing a significant outbreak of Omicron COVID-19 cases since mid-March 2022 which has resulted in a city-wide lockdown. There is also ongoing mass testing using Lateral Flow and PCR tests. Public transport and private travel that are not classed as essential are suspended, and medical and other services have also been disrupted.

Entry requirements for China

All travellers to China need a valid visa to be able to enter. The Chinese Visa Application Centre in Belfast is closed, and the centres in Edinburgh, London and Manchester are operating on reduced hours.

The Chinese Authorities have also recently suspended all direct flights from the UK – this is subject to review but no date for review has been announced as yet. British nationals travelling to China from another country should therefore follow the directions on the website of the local Chinese embassy of the country you are in, or the consulate.

The Chinese Embassy in the UK announced the temporary suspension of entry to China by non-Chinese nationals in the UK holding Chinese visas or residence permits valid at the time of the announcement. Entry by holders of courtesy, C, diplomatic or service visas was not affected.

If you have been issued a visa to travel from the UK to China then you will also need to submit a Health Declaration Form to your nearest Chinese Consulate or Embassy in the UK before you travel. They will then need to certify your form and return it to you by email.

In order to receive a Health Declaration Form, you will need to provide evidence of a negative PCR test seven days before you are due to travel, followed by a negative PCR test and an IgM antibody test for COVID-19 taken no more than 48 hours before you travel.

You cannot use the NHS free testing service to get a test in order to facilitate your travel to another country. You need to take a private test from an eligible provider, such as Fit2FlyTest.

Demonstrating your COVID-19 vaccination status in China

China has yet to confirm if it will accept the current UK solutions for demonstrating COVID vaccination status and so you should follow the guidance for alternative entry requirements.

Health checks on arrival in China

All international arrivals to China are subject to PCR testing on arrival, and during and after quarantine. If you test positive for COVID on arrival and are not showing any symptoms, you will still be isolated in a COVID hospital until you return three consecutive negative results on a COVID test.

Travellers with a history of COVID-19 infection should leave a gap between being infected and travelling to China. All travellers need to take precautions before and during travel to minimise the chances of testing positive on arrival – as much as they can.

The health regulations in China covering passengers arriving from overseas are constantly changing and so you should contact the Chinese Embassy before you travel to make sure you know exactly what is expected of you.

Quarantine requirements in China

Following the PCR test you will be asked to take on arrival in China, you then need to quarantine for 14 days. If you have children who are aged 14 and over with you, be prepared that they may be required to quarantine alone irrespective of whether they test negative or positive for COVID.

Quarantine is usually undertaken at your home (if you have one in China) or a centralised government hotel (with the cost expected to be covered by yourself). Family members or those who have been in close contact of those who test positive will also need to go into a government quarantine hospital.

Follow up swab tests are also likely to take place during your quarantine period.

Failure to comply with the testing put in place or the quarantine requirements, or any attempt to conceal health conditions can result in a sentence of up to 3 years in prison.

What happens after you leave quarantine?

After you leave quarantine you will need to obtain a green QR health code in order to be able to secure accommodation. Many hotels in cities experiencing lockdown will not accept new guests, irrespective of whether you have completed the mandatory quarantine.

Further Reading

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