Unlocking the World

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

CNN StaffUpdated 29th July 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 July 29.
(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.

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.

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.

What's the Covid situation?

China has reported 104,850 cases and 4,848 deaths as of July 29, 2021.
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.
A cluster of Delta variant cases has been tracked to the city of Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu province and home to about nine million people. About 31 new cases have been linked back to cleaners at Nanjing's airport and their direct contacts.
Mass testing has been ordered in Nanjing and its suburbs, with a few high-risk areas locked down in the meantime. Theaters, cinemas, mahjong parlors, spas and other recreational venues are closed, while places like grocery stores and pharmacies have strictly limited the number of people who can enter at a time.

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.