Business & Economy

China mulls easing of restrictions on foreign travellers

By Jesús Centeno

Beijing, May 29 (efe-epa).- China reported no new coronavirus cases on Friday as the Asian country mulls easing restrictions on foreign travellers.

The first time Beijing did not register new infections was on 22 May at a time there were only 70 active cases in China.

To date 4,634 people have died of the 82,995 infected.

Although some measures to limit the movement of people have been lifted, the ban on foreign arrivals has been in place since 28 March, with some exceptions.

The country has since recorded a steady trickle of imported cases, the vast majority of them have been Chinese residents returning from other coronavirus hotspots.

Since the travel ban was issued, local airlines only operate a single flight abroad to each country per week, while foreign airlines only operate one weekly flight to China.

It remains to be seen whether China will continue to relax measures.

In May it authorized the opening of closed spaces with limits on the number of visitors amid strict hygiene and prevention measures.

Schools and kindergartens are expected to reopen in June, but it is still unknown when and how the ban will be lifted on tourists, students, businessmen and foreign residents.

Diplomatic sources told Efe that European Union member states are negotiating with China to allow EU residents in the Asian country to return.

A fast track has already been established so that some workers and businessmen from China can travel to places like South Korea and Germany.

Since 1 May over 1,000 South Koreans working in key sectors have returned to China, most of them employees of tech companies like Samsung, LG and the SK group, Global Times reported.

According to the newspaper, the country’s civil aviation authority will allow airlines to request flights under a “green channel” policy from eight countries: Japan, South Korea, Singapore, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and Switzerland.

An expert consulted by the newspaper says the approval of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be necessary, and that flights will aim to transfer employees of foreign companies operating in China.

“China will consider increasing flights on the condition that coronavirus cases are under control,” Li Jian, deputy director of the Chinese Civil Aviation Administration (CAAC), was quoted as saying.

According to Li, China will relax restrictions on international flights “very gradually”, noting that from 1 June up to 407 flights will be allowed weekly although he does not expect the number to be met due to “market conditions.”

The main concern for China is a flare-up in infections fuelled by imported cases and the country’s priority is to first reboot the national industrial sectors, including aviation which is already slowly recovering from the impact of the virus.

Data offered by the state network CCTV showed a 66.2 percent occupancy rate of domestic airlines in April, which represents a monthly increase of 5.6 percent.

But the government’s closing report during for the legislative session said that “China will spare no effort in the prevention and control tasks to avoid spikes,” and as such strict measures are expected to continue, including temperature monitoring, the use of QR codes to prove the health status of citizens, adequate ventilation of spaces and the use of serological testing to identify asymptomatic Covid-19 carriers.

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