After three years of corona lockdown, China is reopening its borders. At the same time, Germany is tightening entry rules because of the high number of infections in the People’s Republic.
After the end of the zero-Covid policy, China reopens to foreign countries. According to the authorities, the almost three-year isolation ends this Sunday. Entry into the country will be made easier, and trips abroad from the People’s Republic will also become more possible again. At the same time, many countries, including Germany, are tightening their rules for travelers from China for fear of new virus variants. The Foreign Office (AA) in Berlin also advised against “unnecessary” trips there on Saturday.
“The number of infections in China is currently at its highest level since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. The Chinese health system is overburdened, and adequate care in medical emergencies is also affected,” said the reasoning in the travel and safety instructions on the website of the aa According to the Robert Koch Institute, China (with the exception of Hong Kong) will be considered a “virus variant area in which a worrying virus variant threatens to appear” according to the new entry regulation. From then on, the planned compulsory testing for people entering Germany from the People’s Republic should also apply.
Coronavirus entry regulation applies until April 7th
According to the EU health authority ECDC, the coronavirus variants previously known in China are known, also circulate in Europe and “as such do not pose a challenge to the immune response of citizens of the European Union and the European Economic Area (EEA)”. However, the Federal Ministry of Health had said that one would like to “know at an early stage whether anything will change”. For this reason, the category “threatening virus variant area” with special rules has now been introduced in the entry regulation in addition to the category virus variant area.
Travelers from China must therefore present at least one negative rapid antigen test that is no more than 48 hours old before departure for Germany. This should be controlled by the airlines. In addition, travelers should be able to be randomly tested after landing at the request of the authorities. Like other countries, Germany also wants to examine the waste water from aircraft from China for possible new corona virus variants. The federal cabinet decided this on Friday in the so-called circulation procedure – without the cabinet meeting – and is thus implementing joint recommendations from the EU states.
The coronavirus entry regulation, which was changed at short notice, should apply until April 7th. “This ensures that in the event of new, particularly dangerous virus variants, entry or spread in Germany can at least be delayed,” the federal government said.
The number of international flights is set to double
Despite the opening, no large wave of travel is initially expected from China. The number of flights from there abroad is currently only around ten percent of the volume before the pandemic. The tickets are very expensive. Tourists also have to take a back seat: the authorities now want to issue or extend passports again, but primarily only for business and study trips. Conversely, China’s embassies want to issue more visas again. But here, too, business, work or study visits and family visits have priority. The number of international flights is only expected to at least double in the first half of 2023, as reported by state media.
On Sunday, the strict quarantine obligation on entry will fall in China, from which returnees will also benefit. At times, travelers to China had to spend three weeks in strict quarantine in a hotel room. Most recently, five days plus three days of isolation at home were required. Anyone wishing to enter China must present a negative PCR test that is no more than 48 hours old before departure. However, it is no longer necessary to apply for your own entry permit at the embassy, but only to submit a health declaration.
The country’s opening up comes a month after the abrupt reversal in the rigorous zero-Covid strategy implemented since early 2020, which has included lockdowns for tens of millions, mass testing and forced quarantine. After new omicron variants had nevertheless spread explosively and the second largest economy had increasingly suffered from the measures, China’s government gave up its zero tolerance completely on December 7th. The reason for the change of course was the milder course of the disease.
Since then, a massive wave of infections has been rolling through the country, hitting hospitals completely unprepared. According to estimates by London-based data processor Airfinity, 2.5 million people are currently newly infected in China every day, while 16,600 die every day. With such a large outbreak, the emergence of new variants is also feared. However, there is no evidence of this so far.
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