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 September 21.
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 Covid-19 pandemic started in China’s Hubei province, but early and strict lockdowns originally helped keep the virus under control. However, the Omicron variant has proven challenging, and the government is still pursuing a “zero Covid” strategy.
At present, most visitors are not yet allowed entry to the country.
On June 28, China announced that it would loosen, but not drop, its requirements for incoming travelers. The existing 14-day quarantine will be replaced by a “seven plus three” program consisting of one week of hotel quarantine plus three days of home observation.
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.
According to a draft policy document released by China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism on September 19, tour groups organized by travel agencies in China’s border areas will be able to choose their port of entry and exit “flexibly.”
These travelers will be permitted to visit specific sites as part of group tours, not on individual itineraries.
Beyond that, specific details have not yet been spelled out.
Some of the 14 countries that share a border with China are Russia, Vietnam, Pakistan, Nepal and Laos.
What are the restrictions?
As of May 20, travelers from the United States and Canada no longer have to take a PCR test seven days before flying to China.
However, some restrictions are still in place. These travelers are still required to take two PCR tests 24-48 hours before going to China (depending on their departure airport) and a pre-flight antigen test.
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. Some provinces require additional quarantine upon arrival.
Would-be travelers must be careful as flights can be canceled at the last minute.
What’s the Covid situation?
China has reported 2.7 million cases and 15,133 deaths as of September 21, 2022. About 90% of the adult population is fully vaccinated.
Many attractions require guests to register one day in advance and to take a Covid test before being permitted to enter.
Visitors are strongly urged to keep on top of local restrictions and rule changes as much as possible. On June 3, many neighborhoods in Shanghai reopened after a nearly two-month lockdown, only to shut some of them back down again just one day later when some positive cases were detected.
What can visitors expect?
Things can change fast in China. Regional lockdowns have been imposed every time there are new outbreaks of the virus.
Anyone visiting China is urged to be flexible as lockdowns can happen to apartment buildings, offices, or even entire neighborhoods with little notice.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Covid-19 page
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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.
CNN’s Julia Buckley and Lilit Marcus contributed to this report