Unlocking the World

Traveling to China during Covid-19: What you need to know before you go

CNN StaffUpdated 27th October 2021
Shanghai's neon skyline is one of China's modern wonders.
Editor's Note — Coronavirus cases remain high across the globe. Health officials caution that travel increases your chances of getting and spreading the virus. Staying home is the best way to stem transmission. Below is information on what to know if you still plan to travel, last updated on October 27.
(CNN) — If you're planning a trip to China, here's what you'll need to know and expect if you want to visit during the global coronavirus pandemic.

The basics

The Covid-19 pandemic started in China's Hubei province, but early and strict lockdowns means the country has got it under control. However, most visitors are not yet allowed entry.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced on September 30 that the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games would be open to domestic tourists, but not international ones. The IOC also stated that only fully vaccinated athletes will be able to skip the 21-day quarantine.
The Games kick off on February 4, and the Paralympics will end on March 13. These guidelines will apply for the entire period.

What's on offer

This is of course one of the world's greatest ancient civilizations. China brought us papermaking, printing, and, of course, tea. Its many dynasties have left their marks in world-famous heritage sites, such as the Great Wall, the Terracotta Warriors of Xi'an, and ancient towns such as Lijiang. But it's also thoroughly modern, with mushrooming cities and skyscrapers pricking the clouds.

Who can go

China closed its borders to nearly all travelers in March 2020, when the pandemic started spreading throughout Europe.
On March 15, 2021, restrictions were eased for a select number of travelers from 23 countries. Those coming for work or for humanitarian reasons -- such as reuniting with family -- can apply for visas, as can holders of the APEC Business Travel Card. Residents may also return. All categories, however, must have been vaccinated with Chinese-made vaccines at least 15 days earlier.
China already has a Fast Lane agreement with Singapore, allowing business travelers. Business travelers from South Korea are also allowed in.
Government officials have stated that their goal is to have 40 percent of Chinese citizens vaccinated by June. On June 19, the country officially passed the milestone of giving out more than one billion doses of the vaccine.
Despite rumors that the country would only grant travel visas to people who had gotten the China-created Sinovac vaccine, the Chinese embassy in the United States confirmed on April 20 that travelers with confirmed history of vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines would also be eligible.
The "Return2HK" program will kick off on September 15. Under this program, 2,000 eligible people from Macao and the Chinese mainland will be able to enter Hong Kong per day without quarantining.
Half will be permitted to enter via the Shenzhen Bay port and the other half via the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge Hong Kong Port. Proof of a negative Covid test will still be required.

What are the restrictions?

All travelers must present two negative tests -- PCR and antibody tests -- taken within 48 hours of travel.
For the newly qualified entrants, entry depends on having received two doses of Covid-19 vaccines at least 14 days prior to entry. They must apply for a visa in advance, and show their proof of vaccination on arrival, as well as the negative tests.
Arrivals are screened once more at the airport. Those failing the checks will be sent to government facilities. You must then quarantine on arrival. Some regions demand 14 days; others, 21. This might take place at a government facility or at your home.
All tourism activities in northern central Gansu province, which borders Mongolia and is home to a section of the Great Wall, have been suspended following an uptick in cases in mid-October. All of the confirmed cases have been identified as the Delta variant.

What's the Covid situation?

China has reported 109,264 cases and 4,849 deaths as of October 27, 2021. About 75% of the population is fully vaccinated.
Yunnan Province has experienced an uptick in cases, bringing the highest single-day increase in new cases since January. The likely reason is an influx of locals returning from Myanmar, which borders the province, in order to escape from civil unrest. Many of the cases are being diagnosed as the Delta variant.
As of July 2021, Yunnan and Xishuangbanna provinces -- which both have borders with Myanmar -- are subject to heightened controls, including multiple vehicle checkpoints and special permits required to enter cities like Ruili and Puer.
Concerns about the virus spreading via freight networks have resulted in some closures around the country's borders.
Meanwhile, in China's Guanxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, a border crossing with Vietnam's Lang Son Province closed on August 17 so that local authorities could review its Covid-19 protocols. Several other China-Vietnam border crossings, including those with Cao Bang and Lao Cai states, remain open.
According to the National Health Commission, China now has at least four high-risk areas and 154 medium areas, with different forms of epidemic control such as quarantine and travel restrictions implemented.

What can visitors expect?

Life is largely back to normal, but things can change fast in China -- regional lockdowns have been imposed every time there are new outbreaks of the virus.

Useful links

Our recent coverage

Feel the need for speed? China's 350kmph driverless bullet train should be top of your list. Those with a head for heights should make an appointment with the horizontal skyscraper. If you're in Beijing, you may want to visit this restaurant in a former temple. Disney fans will also be pleased to hear that Shanghai Disney Resort is open as normal, albeit with some health precautions.