China on Tuesday reduced the length of mandatory quarantine for inbound travellers, in the biggest relaxation of entry restrictions after sticking to a rigid zero Covid policy throughout the pandemic.

This photo taken on June 18, 2022 shows inbound passengers waiting to be taken to quarantine-designated destinations from the Beijing International Airport in Beijing. Photo: Leo Ramirez/AFP.

The new guideline cuts the length of mandatory quarantine for overseas travellers to seven days plus three more of home monitoring — a drastic drop from about 21 days of quarantine and home monitoring combined.

China closed off its international borders at the beginning of the pandemic and the number of international flights is still tightly restricted in an effort to tamp down “imported” virus cases as the pandemic rages elsewhere.

Since then overseas arrivals have faced weeks of strict monitoring and costly quarantine in hotels and designated centres.

Under the latest Covid prevention and control policy guidelines announced by the National Heath Commission and the State Council, inbound travellers entering China will now be required to quarantine centrally for just seven days.

Starting from April, a growing number of “pilot” cities have already slashed mandatory centralised quarantine for overseas travellers to 10 days, with Beijing reducing quarantine as well last month.

However, scarce international flights are frequently subject to cancellations, as Beijing operates a “circuit breaker” system where routes are temporarily cancelled if enough positive passengers are discovered on board.

According to the latest guidelines, the new quarantine requirement also applies to people identified as close contacts inside China, where strict quarantine is imposed on communities with positive cases.

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