Many people traveled by land, air, and sea to China on Sunday. They were eager to reunite with their loved ones after Beijing opened the borders which had been closed since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Three years later, China opened land and sea crossings to Hong Kong. It also ended the requirement that incoming travelers must be quarantined. This was the final pillar in a zero COVID policy, which had not only protected China’s population of 1.4 billion from the virus but also disconnected them from the rest.
China has eased its COVID regime, which was the tightest in the world for the last month. This follows protests from the historic second-largest economy against policies that were frequent testing and restricted movement.
Check-in lines at Hong Kong’s international airport were long for tickets to China, Tianjin, and Xiamen. According to Hong Kong media, thousands of people were crossing.
“I’m so happy, so happy, so excited. “I haven’t seen them in many years,” Teresa Chow, a Hong Kong resident, said as she prepared for her crossing into mainland China via Hong Kong’s Lok Ma Chau checkpoint.
She said that her parents were not well and she couldn’t travel back to visit them when they had colon cancer. So, it was a great pleasure to be able to return and meet them.
The reopening of a $17 trillion economy, which has seen its slowest growth for nearly 50 years, is a hope that investors have. The abrupt policy change has caused a tsunami of infections, which is threatening some hospitals and disrupting business operations.
After Saturday’s “chunyun” (the 40-day period for Lunar New Year travel), the border will be opened. This is the largest annual migration in the world, and people return to their homes or take holidays with loved ones.
According to the government, 2 billion people are likely to travel this year, almost double what was last year and returning to 70 percent of 2019,
It is expected that many Chinese will travel abroad. This long-awaited change has been a welcome one for tourists in places like Thailand and Indonesia. However, several countries are placing restrictions on travel from China because of concerns about China’s rising COVID levels.
Analysts predict that travel will not return quickly to levels pre-pandemic due to factors such as the dearth of international flights.
China resumed on Sunday issuing travel visas, passports, and visas to mainland residents. For foreigners, ordinary visas were also issued. Beijing sets daily quotas for the number of persons who may travel between Hong Kong, China, and China.
Families and friends shared hugs, greetings, and hugs at the Beijing Capital International Airport with travelers arriving from Hong Kong, Warsaw, and Frankfurt. This was a far cry from what would have been possible just one day before.
“I have been waiting for the reopening of my office for a very long time. We are finally connected with the rest of the world. “I’m so thrilled. It’s unbelievable,” said Shen, a 55-year-old businesswoman who arrived from Hong Kong.
Another group that waited at the airport was a group consisting of the long-lens camera wearing women hoping to see Tempest, an idol group hailing from South Korea who entered China for the first time in three years.
It’s wonderful to meet them face-to-face! “They are far more handsome and taller than I expected,” stated a 19-year-old girl who called herself Xiny after chasing down the seven-member group who had arrived from Seoul to Beijing.
China has downgraded COVID management from Category A to Category B. This had previously allowed authorities in China to lock down areas and quarantine close friends and patients.
However, there are concerns that city workers may be moving to smaller cities and rural areas due to the reopening of borders. This could lead to an increase in infection in these small towns.
On Wednesday, the World Health Organisation stated that China’s COVID data does not accurately reflect the actual number of deaths and hospitalizations from this disease.
Chinese state media and officials defended their handling of the crisis, downplaying the scale of the situation and decrying foreign travel restrictions on Chinese citizens.
Jiao Yahui is a National Health Commission official who stated in an interview that CCTV published on Sunday, that the demand for critical and emergency care had probably peaked in large Chinese cities, but was increasing rapidly in rural areas and small cities due to Lunar New Year travel.
She said that 80% of ICU beds at China’s best-and second-tier hospitals are currently in use. This is an increase from 54% on Dec. 25.
A news conference was held by health officials, who stated that they are open to the idea of emergency COVID prevention measures like suspending large-scale nonessential activities or business at large entertainment venues in order to combat large outbreaks.
China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported two additional daily COVID deaths in China, up from three the day before. This brings the total death toll to 5,269.