China relaxes COVID-19 travel restrictions

Rachel Yoon, Staff Artist

After nearly three years of strict COVID-19 precautions, China has relaxed its border controls for citizens to reunite with the rest of the world. Since Jan. 8, the border restrictions and quarantine period between mainland China and Hong Kong city have been eased, as well as a few regulations with international borders. Although the Chinese public heavily anticipated this change, the policy was brought on too early in the year, with anxiety and unease rising from the perpetual COVID-19 pandemic. 


China’s previous travel restrictions of border closures, entry and exit bans, visa restrictions, screenings upon arrival, and a ten-day quarantine had been replaced with proof of a single negative COVID-19 test. The sudden lift in border restrictions was exciting news to Chinese residents, who have been anticipating long-awaited reunions with their loved ones. 


However, people should not be excited about this change. Not surprisingly, this full 180-degree turn from China’s ‘zero-Covid’ policy has brought on an overwhelming surge of COVID-19 outbreaks in various countries. Considering that COVID-19 had reemerged and infected more than 18% of people in China throughout December, this action was an untactful and inconsiderate move by the government.  


Current research estimates that the total deaths in China due to COVID-19 could reach 1.7 million by the end of April. Deeper concerns arise when taking rural areas into account—workers migrating into their smaller hometowns may severely infect under-equipped areas that have little to no access to hospitals. With China’s most popular holiday, Lunar New Year, countries around the world are put at risk of another rapidly spreading pandemic. Families excited to visit their relatives may spread the virus to their vulnerable elders and young children. 


These consequences could have been avoided if China had made steadier measures in relation to the pandemic. For example, in Sept 2022, Taiwan also lifted the mandated quarantine period, but instead replaced it with a seven day self-initiated prevention period. The government ensured that the policies were established only after 99% of the public showed little to no COVID-19 symptoms. If China followed in Taiwan’s strategic and responsible footsteps, COVID-19 would not be as critical of a problem.


Although 2023 may be a new year with many hopes and dreams ahead, countries should still be cautious of the timing and security of their actions. The road to normality is still long and treacherous for many, and rushing to achieve that pre-pandemic life will only aggravate the situation. It’s time to take a step back and rethink China’s public health decisions.