"It's over...spring is coming!": the Chinese reacted with joy today to the lifting of mandatory quarantine for those arriving in the country and rushing to book flights abroad, after three years of isolation due to Covid.
Authorities ended most of the strict health measures against her on December 7 Covid-19, amid growing public resentment and a significant impact on the economy. The latest aspect of their 'zero covid' policy, mandatory quarantine will be lifted from January 8 for travelers arriving in the country, Beijing announced late yesterday.
Many Chinese reacted immediately with excitement to the end of restrictions that have kept their country isolated from the rest of the world since March 2020.
27-year-old Fan Chengcheng has "the impression that the epidemic is finally over". "The travel plans I've had for three years can now come true," he said.
"It's over...spring is coming!" wrote a user on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter.
In Shanghai, resident Ji Weihe welcomed the measure which will "benefit the economy, people's lives and their desire to get out of the house and travel".
Internet searches for flights abroad jumped as soon as the development was announced, state media reported.
Travel website Tongcheng recorded an 850% jump in online searches and a tenfold increase in searches for visa information. Competing website Trip.com reported that within the first half hour of the announcement, the volume of searches for destinations outside mainland China had increased tenfold compared to the previous year. Macau, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand and South Korea are among the most searched destinations.
This decision to lift the quarantine on arrival marks the end of the strict 'zero Covid' policy, which for the past almost three years has seen widespread diagnostic tests, unprecedented lockdowns and long periods of mandatory quarantine in special centres, which have hit the second largest economy in the world.
"It's a relief," said Tom Simpson, China director general of the British Chamber of Commerce, "it brings to an end three years of very significant upheaval." The official, however, expects only a "gradual" recovery as airlines slowly increase the number of flights and companies readjust their strategies for China in 2023. In any case, the announcement is "very, very welcome." Simpson told AFP.
Starting next month, only a negative test in the last 48 hours will be needed for someone to enter Chinese territory, as the National Health Commission (NHC), China's equivalent health ministry, announced late yesterday.
Some restrictions will remain in place, however: China has largely suspended tourist and foreign student visas since the start of the pandemic.
With the lifting of basic health restrictions, China is nevertheless experiencing a surge in Covid infections. This surge comes ahead of the holidays for the advent of 2023 and the Lunar New Year at the end of January, when millions of people will travel to meet their loved ones.
China announced on Sunday that it will no longer publish statistics on Covid. The data on the pandemic has been widely criticized due to its complete inconsistency with the current epidemiological situation.
Across the country, hospitals and crematoriums are overflowing with Covid patients and victims, while Western studies estimate that as many as one million people may die of complications from the coronavirus in the coming months. Major cities are currently experiencing shortages of antipyretic drugs, while emergency departments are being overworked by an influx of elderly, unvaccinated patients.
Beijing insists the country is ready to weather the 'storm' - and is appealing to citizens to look out for themselves. "The world needs to protect itself properly and continue to cooperate in proper prevention and control measures" of Covid, said Liang Wanyan, an epidemiologist who advises health authorities, according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency (New China). .