Hong Kong reopened its border with Macau after six weeks as cases of COVID ease. But the Chinese government is tightening anti-COVID travel restrictions. Does China intend to keep the pandemic border restrictions in place for another year? And is China’s zero-COVID policy still in place? Let’s look at both scenarios.
Hong Kong reopens border with Macau
The tourist industry in Hong Kong has been in a rut since last year’s outbreak, and the news that the Macau-Hong Kong border will reopen after six weeks may be a lifeline for the struggling tourism industry. While reopening with mainland China is a major step, many businesses remain skeptical about plans to open the border again. The South China Morning Post reported that the reopening would likely be a phased approach, beginning with business travel.
China tightens anti-COVID travel restrictions
Travel restrictions to Macau were tightened Oct. 6 following reports of increased COVID activity in the territory. More than a million people were infected during the COVID-19 pandemic, with over 9,000 people dying. The government has no clear timetable for easing restrictions, though the Financial Times quoted a source as saying the borders would be closed until after a major Communist Party meeting in November 2022.
China plans to keep pandemic border restrictions in place for another year
Amid growing fears that new strains of the Covid virus will surface, China has decided to extend its current pandemic border restrictions for another year. The decision comes amid a tense calendar of sensitive events, including the Winter Olympics in Beijing in February 2022. While reported daily cases of the virus are lower than those in other major countries, the Chinese government is still concerned about wider transmissions given its dense urban population and developed transport system.
China’s policy of zero COVID unclear
The zero-COVID policy in China is a symbol of authoritarian rule in this country. It ensures that government officials can act at will. Accountability for the state would be unthinkable. It also prevents citizens from obtaining health services in time of crisis. Besides, knocking on the door can occur at any time, for any reason, which is a source of constant trepidation.
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China relaxes visa requirements for countries with high vaccination rates
A recent statement from the Chinese Embassy in the United Kingdom said that visa requirements for people from some countries have been relaxed for humanitarian purposes. In addition, those with valid residence permits from Chinese provincial governments or departments of commerce will not need to submit invitation letters as long as they have the necessary vaccination records. However, visa applicants who do not possess the Chinese vaccination must present stronger reasons or specific documents to prove their exemption. The move comes as some experts speculate whether vaccine nationalism is behind the recent easing of visa requirements in China.