Travelling to China during the Pandemic

Originally published on Domino Chinese Blog, August 2020

Between late-February and mid-April 2020, as countries frantically battled the first Coronavirus outbreak, international travel came to a complete standstill and over 90% of commercial aircraft were grounded. Strict travel restrictions were put in place across the globe and over 150 countries closed their borders to stem the spread of the virus. 

Six months on from the pandemic’s initial peak, lockdowns and ‘stay-home’ restrictions have been lifted in most countries, while schools, restaurants, bars and even cinemas are now open. Despite the opening of most businesses, international travel remains heavily restricted as leaders across the world attempt to balance the need to control the virus and the need for travel, tourism and trade. 

Pudong quarantine

The situation in China 

Although the coronavirus outbreak originated in central China, the country has been remarkably successful at containing and limiting the spread of the virus. The epidemic in China is considered ‘under control’ with the country classified as low-risk.

At present the number of new Covid cases per day is between 10-20, the vast majority of which are imported cases. Compared with the US, which has been recording over 30,000 new cases per day since June, and the UK which has been recording over 3,000 new cases per day, China is a much safer place to be right now. 

Can foreigners travel to China? 

The regulations China has implemented to successfully contain the coronavirus, also mean that it is difficult to travel to China at the moment. If you are planning to travel, you will need to meet a lot of requirements, prepare a lot of extra documentation and go through a lot of red tape.

These are the five steps for travelling to China 

1) Submit application to obtain a visa for China

2) Provide proof of a negative result for COVID-19 to embassy

3) Have your visa approved

4) Provide proof of a negative result for COVID-19 at the airport

5) Arrive in China and enter 14 day mandatory quarantine 

1) Submit application to obtain a visa for China 

In August, China began reopening its borders, allowing eligible individuals from the following list of countries to submit applications for a Chinese visa.

Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Laos, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Montenegro, Myanmar, Netherlands, Norway, North Macedonia, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Timor-Leste, and Vietnam.

In order to be eligible to apply for a visa, individuals must meet one (or more) of the following criteria; 

1) Persons who hold a valid “Foreigner’s Residence Permit” issued for work or who need to travel to China for family reunions or private matters;

2) Persons who hold an “Invitation Letter (PU/TE)” or “Verification Confirmation of Invitation” issued by a provincial authority for cultural, economic, scientific, sporting, technological, or trade purposes;

3) Persons who hold a “Notification Letter of Foreigners Work Permit” and a “Invitation Letter (PU/TE)” or a “Verification Confirmation of Invitation” for work in China;

4) Persons intending to visit an immediate family member (including parents, spouses, children, grandparents, or grandchildren) who is in a critical medical condition, or to attend to funeral arrangements for said person. Documentation proving the relationship is required;

5) Spouses or children under 18 of a Chinese national, or who themselves hold a valid Chinese “Foreign Permanent Resident ID Card” and who intend to visit China for the purposes of family reunion;

6) Persons (including an accompanying spouse or children under the age of 18) intending to travel to China to care for their Chinese parents. Documentation proving the relationship is required;

7) Persons who qualify to apply for a crew (C) visa.

If you fit into one of those categories, you are then required to make an appointment online with the nearest Chinese Visa Application Centre. 

Once your appointment has been confirmed, you will be given a specific time and date to visit the embassy and submit your application in person. It is essential you bring original copies of all the evidence and supporting documentation with you to the interview.

More information about this stage of the process can be found at,  http://www.visaforchina.org

2) Provide proof of a negative result for COVID-19 to embassy 

COVID-19 test results are required for any and all travel to China. I

In July, as China started reopening its borders, ‘China’s Civil Aviation Administration announced that all persons (including Chinese nationals) must have proof of a negative result for COVID-19 issued no more than 5 days before departure using a nucleic acid test performed by a provider recognized by the local Chinese embassy or consulate.’

So any foreign national planning to travel to China must submit test results to a Chinese embassy or consulate and obtain a “Health Status” certificate for use when boarding flights bound for China. You will also need to provide a negative COVID-19 test result to fly to China. 

3) Have your visa approved Visa processing for visits to China is now more stringent than it was previously. You will need to submit all the necessary evidence and documentation with your application. Failure to provide necessary documentation to support your visa application will result in delays, and you may need to restart the entire process. 

Once your visa is confirmed you can finalise your travel plans. You should also be aware that only nine of China’s airports are open to international flights.

List of Chinese Airports open to International Flights; 

Beijing Capital International Airport. 

– Shanghai Pudong International Airport

– Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport 

– Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport

– Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport

– Kunming Changshui International Airport 

– Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport

– Nanjing Lukou International Airport 

– Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport

3rd

4) Provide proof of a negative result for COVID-19 at the airport 

On the day you travel to China, you’ll need to get to the airport earlier than usually to ensure you have time to undergo the added health and security checks. You temperature will be checked on a number of occasions during your time at the departing airport. If you are found to have a fever, you will not be able to board the plane.

Furthermore, travellers need a valid visa and proof of a negative result for COVID-19 in order to be allowed board any flight to China.

5) Arrive in China and enter 14 day mandatory quarantine 

Upon arrival in Shanghai, Customs officials will board the plane to screen the passengers. After getting off from the plane, a nucleic acid test will be carried out at the airport, as well as an additional serological test. Passengers with symptoms, such as fever or coughing, will be subject to further medical observations at the airport.

If all tests are negative, the traveller will then be transferred to a hotel in which they will stay in quarantine and under observation.https://www.youtube.com/embed/nYf0n9YI69s

Travellers arriving in China are able to select from a list of government approved hotels offering ‘quarantine services’. Prices vary depending on the quality of the hotel, ranging from 200RMB to 400RMB per day in Shanghai. 

During time in quarantine you’ll be required to follow strict guidelines, and, rather like a prison inmate, the only human interaction you’ll get is when our meals are delivered to your door.

Finally, after your 14 days in quarantine is complete, providing you’ve shown no signs of being infected with the coronavirus, you’ll be able to leave the hotel and resume a ‘normal life’ in China.

For more insights to life in quarantine, check out these informative blog posts;

https://www.thinkchina.sg/quarantined-shanghai-can-i-find-peace-solitude

https://www.vogue.com/article/leaf-greener-interview-shanghai-quarantine-center-coronavirus

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