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China Eases Covid-19 Travel Rules, But They Are Still Onerous

China is loosening its strict zero-Covid policy for travelers in several key ways, but international visitors will still be required to jump through plenty of hoops.

Chinese authorities announced the end to the so-called “circuit breaker” policy of suspending airlines when five or more passengers on an inbound flight test positive for Covid. Passengers flying to China will be now only required to take one pre-departure Covid test within 48 hours of departure, rather than two, according to a notice from China’s State Council.

But international travelers without a permanent address in China will still need to spend a total of eight days quarantining in a hotel.

The Chinese government’s statement did not mentioned when the changes would take effect.

MORE FROM FORBESChina Travel And Hotel Stocks Vault On Plan To Ease Covid Restrictions

China’s ultra-strict restrictions — including lockdowns, mass testing, contact tracing and quarantines — have kept the Covid-19 infection rate relatively low, but only by keeping people from schools, businesses, shops and attractions. Millions of people are currently under lockdown in the west and south of China, reported the Associated Press.

The pandemic and aggressive Covid restrictions have pummeled China’s tourism sector. Domestic travel was down 27% compared to 2019 levels, the country’s culture and tourism ministry said in September.

The new rule changes are also expected to have a major impact on destinations that traditionally welcome large numbers of Chinese tourists. Before the pandemic, roughly 2.83 million Chinese arrivals to the United States spent an average of $6,700 apiece in 2019, according to the U.S. Travel Association.

News of the easements have already boosted China’s biggest travel and hotel stocks. Shares of two huge Shanghai-based companies — Trip.com, the country’s biggest online travel agency, and the hospitality chain H World Group — were both up by roughly 17% on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on Friday.

The U.S. State Department currently has a Level 3 travel advisory issued for China, advising Americans to “reconsider travel … due to arbitrary enforcement of local laws and Covid-19-related restrictions.”

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