China mulls easing of restrictions on foreign travellers

Chinese authorities were considering easing restrictions on foreign travellers as the Asian giant, where the COVID-19 pandemic originated in December 2019, recorded no new cases of the virus.

The first time China did not register new infections was on May 22 at a time there were only 70 active cases in the mainland, reports Efe news.

In total, China has recorded 4,634 COVID-19 fatalities and 82,995 cases.

Although some measures to limit the movement of people have been lifted, the ban on foreign arrivals has been in place since March 28, 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 news that European Union (EU) member states were 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 May 1, 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, the state-run Global Times newspaper 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.

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 per cent occupancy rate of domestic airlines in April, which represents a monthly increase of 5.6 per cent.