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China Reopens Borders in Final Farewell to Zero-COVID

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China Reopens Borders in Final Farewell to Zero-COVID

(CTN News) – On Sunday, when Beijing restored borders that had been all but closed since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, travelers started pouring over land and sea crossings from Hong Kong to mainland China, many of whom were anxious for long-awaited reunions.

A last tenet of a zero-COVID policy that protected China’s citizens against the virus but isolated them from the rest of the world is being dismantled as the mainland opens its border with Hong Kong and no longer requires arriving travelers to undergo quarantine.

Following historic demonstrations against a program that included regular testing, restrictions on travel, and mass lockdowns that seriously harmed the second-largest economy, China has loosened one of the strictest COVID systems in the world.

“I’m ecstatic, joyful, and delighted. I haven’t seen my parents in a long time,” Teresa Chow, a resident of Hong Kong, said as she and several other travelers prepared to enter mainland China early on Sunday at Hong Kong’s Lok Ma Chau checkpoint.

She said she intended to visit her birthplace of Ningbo city in eastern China. “My parents are not in good condition, and I couldn’t travel back to see them even when they had colon cancer,” she said.

Investors are hopeful that the reopening would ultimately revitalize the $17 trillion economy, which is now seeing its worst growth in over 50 years.

However, the rapid policy change has resulted in a large infection surge that is overloading certain hospitals and disrupting operations.

The border opened on Saturday, marking the beginning of “chun yun,” the first 40 days of travel for the Lunar New Year, which, before the epidemic, was the greatest yearly movement of people traveling back to their hometowns to spend time with relatives.

According to the government, there will be 2 billion travelers this season, almost twice as many as in 2018 and back to levels seen in 2019.

Many Chinese are also anticipated to start traveling overseas, which will be a long-awaited change for tourism destinations in nations like Thailand and Indonesia.

However, numerous governments are restricting Chinese travelers due to concerns about rising COVID rates.

Because of a lack of foreign flights, researchers believe that travel will not rapidly recover to pre-pandemic levels.

On Sunday, China started granting passports, regular visas, and residency permits to foreigners as well as citizens of the mainland.

The number of persons who may travel between Hong Kong and China each day is capped by Beijing.

Videos shared on Chinese social media showed employees at Shanghai’s Pudong airport overnight removing bright blue signs indicating paths through its international terminal to implement a policy that required visitors from other countries to undergo up to eight days of quarantine upon arrival.

In other footage, families reunited at the airport gate were seen giving each other heartfelt hugs.

A driver at the Lok Ma Chau checkpoint in Hong Kong, who would only go by the surname Yip, claimed to be among those eager to reach the mainland.

He added that we couldn’t wait any longer since it’s been three years.

Source: Reuters

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