June 16, 2024

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China reopens its borders in a final farewell to the zero-COVID tournament

China reopens its borders in a final farewell to the zero-COVID tournament

HONG KONG/BEIJING (Reuters) – Travelers began flocking to mainland China by air, land and sea on Sunday, with many eager for a long-awaited reunion as Beijing opened up borders that have been nearly closed since the start of the coronavirus outbreak. -19 pandemic.

Three years later, mainland China opened sea and land crossings with Hong Kong and ended a requirement for incoming travelers to quarantine, dismantling the last pillar of the novel coronavirus non-spread policy that protected China’s people from the virus but also isolated them from the rest. From the world.

China’s easing over the past month of one of the world’s toughest COVID-19 regulations followed historic protests against a policy that included frequent testing, movement restrictions and mass lockdowns that have wreaked havoc on the second-largest economy.

Long lines formed at Hong Kong International Airport for flights to mainland cities including Beijing, Tianjin and Xiamen, and some Hong Kong media estimated that thousands of people were traveling through.

“I am so happy, so happy, so excited,” said Hong Kong resident Teresa Chow, as she and dozens of other travelers prepared to cross into mainland China from Hong Kong’s Lok Ma Chow checkpoint early Sunday. My father many years ago.

“My parents are not healthy, and I couldn’t go back to see them even when they had colon cancer, so I’m really happy to go back and see them now,” she said, adding that she plans to head back to her hometown in the eastern Chinese city of Ningbo.

Investors hope reopening will eventually revitalize the $17 trillion economy that is suffering from its lowest growth rate in nearly half a century. But the sudden policy reversal led to a massive wave of infections that swept through some hospitals and caused business disruptions.

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The opening of borders follows the start of Chunyun on Saturday, the first 40-day period of Lunar New Year travel, which before the pandemic was the world’s largest annual migration of people returning to their hometowns for holidays with their families.

The government says about two billion trips are expected to be taken this season, nearly double last year’s traffic and recovering to 70% of 2019 levels.

Many Chinese are also expected to start traveling abroad, a long-awaited shift for tourist spots in countries such as Thailand and Indonesia, although many governments – concerned about the rise of the coronavirus in China – are imposing restrictions on travelers from the country.

Analysts say travel will not quickly return to pre-pandemic levels due to factors such as the scarcity of international flights.

On Sunday, China resumed issuing passports and travel visas to mainland residents, and ordinary visas and residence permits to foreigners. Beijing applies quotas on the number of people who can travel between Hong Kong and China each day.

visitors, home

At Beijing Capital International Airport, families and friends exchanged emotional hugs and greetings with passengers from Hong Kong, Warsaw and Frankfurt at Terminal 3 of the airport. Meetings in the arrivals hall were impossible just a day ago because they are now cancelled. Requirement for travelers from abroad to be quarantined.

“I’ve been looking forward to reopening for a long time. Finally, the world has been reconnected. I’m overjoyed, I can’t believe it’s happening,” said a businesswoman named Chen, 55, from Hong Kong.

Others waiting at the airport include a group of female fans holding long-lens cameras hoping to catch a glimpse of South Korean boy band Tempest, the first South Korean artist group to enter China in the past three years.

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“It’s very good to see them in person! They are much more handsome and much taller than I expected,” a 19-year-old told Reuters after chasing the boy of seven, who had arrived from Seoul via the Chinese city of Dalian.

“With the quarantine restrictions lifted, it will be more convenient for you to fly over them to see them, for them to come to Beijing,” she said.

protests

Those reunion scenes, however, contrasted with others from protests in some cities across China over the weekend, in a reminder of how the economy continues to be under pressure.

Protests are not uncommon in China, which over the years has seen people turn out in droves over issues such as financial or property fraud. But the authorities were on high alert after widespread protests in Chinese cities and major universities at the end of November against coronavirus restrictions.

On Saturday, hundreds of Tesla (TSLA.O) Owners gathered in the company’s showrooms and distribution centers in China to protest its decision to cut prices for the second time in three months, a move it took to spur sales at a time of faltering demand in the world’s largest car market.

(This story has been paraphrased to correct paragraph 9 to say 2 billion flights, not 2 billion people to travel)

(Reporting by Joyce Zhou in Hong Kong and Yu Lun Tian and Josh Arslan in Beijing; Writing by Brenda Goh in Shanghai; Editing by William Mallard

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.