Following the end of the “Zero COVID” policy and a wave of new infections in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), several countries have implemented new COVID-related restrictions on travelers from the PRC mainland, Hong Kong, and Macau. Thus far, these restrictions mainly consist of pre-departure testing requirements, but they represent a departure from the previous global trend, which saw most countries relax or eliminate all COVID-related entry requirements.
*This post was updated with additional information on January 9 and 10, 2023.
Background: The End of “Zero COVID”
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the PRC government has maintained some of the world’s strictest protocols to control the spread of the virus. Known as “Zero COVID,” the government’s strategy has included widespread testing, strict quarantine measures, and restrictions on inbound and outbound travel. These restrictions have been lifted over the past month, leading to a wave of new infections in China. The surge of infections has operationally impacted various government offices, including those of the U.S. embassy and consulates in the PRC, where routine visa services have been suspended with limited exception.
As a result of the change in the PRC government’s policy, inbound travelers to China will no longer be required to quarantine upon arrival, effective January 8, 2023. In addition, PRC nationals will once again be able to apply for passports to travel abroad. These announcements have reportedly led to a spike in visits to travel websites in China, with many PRC nationals seeking to visit Japan, South Korea, Thailand, and other destinations for the first time in years.
New Restrictions on Travelers from China
Increased interest in cross-border travel, as well as concerns about the pace of infections in China, have prompted some destination countries to reimpose COVID-related restrictions on travelers from China. On January 4, for example, the European Union “strongly encouraged” all member states to require a negative COVID test within 48 hours of departure for all travelers coming from China. Below is a sampling of recent COVID travel restrictions on passengers from China:
|Negative COVID test (PCR or RAT) within 48 hours of departure
|United States; Australia; Canada; United Kingdom; Chile; UAE (PCR only)
|Negative PCR test within 48 hours or rapid antigen test within 24 hours
|Japan (PCR/RAT); Taiwan (PCR); South Korea (PCR); Chile (PCR)
|Entry prohibited for travelers from China
- United States: Effective January 5, 2023, the United States will require all passengers over age 2 from China, Hong Kong, and Macau to present a negative PCR or rapid antigen test administered by a healthcare provider no more than 2 days before departure before boarding their flight. The requirement also applies to passengers traveling through Incheon International Airport, Toronto Pearson International Airport, and Vancouver International Airport on their way to the United States if they have been in China, Hong Kong, or Macau within the past 10 days, as well as to passengers who are merely transiting through the United States en route to another destination.
- Japan: As of December 30, 2022, Japan requires all travelers who have been in China within the past 7 days to take a COVID test upon arrival in Japan, with the possibility of quarantine for individuals who test positive. The test will be either a PCR test or rapid antigen test.
- Taiwan: As of January 1, 2023, all passengers arriving in Taiwan from the PRC must undergo saliva-based PCR testing on arrival. Passengers must then complete a seven-day self-health monitoring period, during which time they should continue testing.
- Australia: Effective January 5, 2023, Australia will require all air travelers from China, Hong Kong, and Macau to present a negative PCR or rapid antigen test administered by a healthcare provider no more than 2 days before departure before boarding their flight. The requirement applies to all travelers age 12 and older. Limited exceptions apply for individuals who can demonstrate recovery from COVID-19 infection within the past 30 days.
- Canada: As of January 5, 2023, all air travelers to Canada who are two years of age and older, arriving on flights originating from the PRC, Hong Kong, or Macao, will need to provide a negative COVID test result, taken no more than 2 days before departure, to the airline prior to boarding. The test could be either a PCR test or a negative antigen test with documentation showing it has been monitored by a telehealth service, accredited laboratory, or testing provider. Passengers who tested positive more than 10 days before their departure flight, but no more than 90 days, can provide the airline with documentation of their prior positive, in place of a negative test result.
- South Korea: From January 2 through February 28, 2023, the South Korean government will suspend issuance of short-term visas to Chinese nationals. All travelers from China will be required to enter through Incheon International Airport. Travelers must complete either a PCR test within 48 hours or a RAT test within 24 hours of departure, and must complete a PCR test within one day after arrival. Travelers must also register their information through the online Q-Code system before departure.
- Morocco: As of January 3, 2023, the Moroccan government has prohibited the entry of passengers arriving from China, regardless of nationality.
- United Kingdom: Effective January 5, 2023, passengers arriving from China to the United Kingdom will need to show a negative COVID-19 pre-departure test taken no more than 2 days prior to departure.
- Chile: As of January 1, 2023, travelers from China must present a negative COVID test (PCR or RAT) taken within 48 hours of departure. Travelers who have been in China within the past 7 days will also be required to undergo PCR testing upon arrival in Chile.
- United Arab Emirates: Effective January 8, 2023, travelers from China must present a negative PCR test within 48 hours of departure.
As the COVID situation in the PRC develops, and the Chinese New Year celebrations approach, more countries are expected to announce or revise travel restrictions on passengers from China. While most restrictions so far have been relatively modest, much will depend on how the latest wave of infections develops in the PRC.
Please continue monitoring COVID-19 legal developments on our blog, The Mobile Workforce.