Goodbye centralised quarantine. The date when you can travel to China with less hassle has finally arrived. After three years of a zero-Covid mandate that meant China’s borders were effectively closed, foreigners arriving in the country from Sunday can now be less worried about the draconian virus control measures they have to go through. Authorities will also start issuing tourist and business visas to allow Chinese nationals to travel to Hong Kong as part of a gradual resumption of land border checkpoints with the city, as well its other special administrative region, Macau. In his New Year message, President Xi Jinping said there is now a “light of hope” in the fight against the coronavirus and that China will not close its doors. The business community has long demanded that China lift its virus control measures, and now travellers only need to present a negative PCR test result from the last 48 hours. They also do not need to enter centralised quarantine. Those measures have been blamed for hampering business sentiment and for damaging foreign investor confidence in China. Removing the measures is a sign that China has “turned the corner”, according to one foreign business chamber. Traders from the United States to Africa largely welcomed the resumption of travel to China, even though they are still cautious about their business plans. In Africa, China has already overtaken the US as the continent’s largest trading partner, with two-way trade reaching US$259.13 billion in the first 11 months of this year. This represents a 12.7 per cent year on year jump, with many traders on the continent saying they import fresh products and raw materials from China and that they want trade to be further boosted. But those at the global government level are more cautious. Seeing a large number of infections inside China since the abrupt dropping of most restrictions, they fear an influx of travellers resulting in an outbreak, with many placing restrictions on arrivals . The US, Australia, France, Spain, Italy, the UK and Canada now require negative Covid-19 tests for arrivals from China, while Morocco has blocked arrivals from China all together. Part of the reasons behind the testing requirements is concerns over new Omicron strains that will make the virus more transmissible. Some health experts say a more severe variant is unlikely, but China needs to stay vigilant. Other nations and the World Health Organization (WHO) have asked China to share more timely and accurate information on the current outbreak. China’s infection figures and death toll are seen as unreliable and contradictory to reports of overwhelmed hospitals and funeral services. But China has said that no new variant has been detected, based on the genome sequence data that it submitted to the WHO . China’s Foreign Ministry also denounced the entry restrictions on travellers from China as “unacceptable” and warned that they could reciprocate. Inside China, momentum within the tourism industry seems to be picking up. China recorded 52.71 million domestic tourist trips over the three-day new year holiday , a year-on-year increase of 0.44 per cent. Even though the figure is still only less than half of 2019 pre-pandemic level, members of the public still flocked to local landmarks to countdown to 2023 . But frustrations still remain over the lack of medical supplies . Anti-fever drugs and medical equipment are running out, or have become expensive. Many in China have turned to places such as Hong Kong and online platforms to stock up. Some have complained that the pivot away from zero-China was too sudden and that they simply did not have time to prepare. Officials have also warned that rural areas might be hardest hit by the virus during the Lunar New Year’s travel rush, pledging to improve medical services and supplies. 60 second catch-up High-speed rail link to resume on January 15 amid border reopening, with 60,000 travellers from Hong Kong allowed into mainland China daily from Sunday Explainer: Planning your trip from Hong Kong to mainland China? What you need to know before you go after authorities scrap most restrictions China defends Covid reporting transparency, says case numbers compare favourably with other nations Video: WHO says China under-representing real impact of its latest Covid-19 surge China can see a ‘light of hope’ in Covid battle, says Xi Jinping in New Year’s message Beijing decries ‘political’ curbs on Chinese travellers, threatens to reciprocate Video: China can see a ‘light of hope’ in Covid battle, says Xi Jinping in New Year’s message Chinese revellers pack public squares to see off 2022 and 3 years of zero-Covid Opinion: Why China’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic is at best a pyrrhic victory Deep Dives Millions worked in China’s mass testing system. Now they’re out of a job Huge army of ‘big whites’ in hazmat suits are scrambling to find work after the zero-Covid policy came to an abrupt end Most testing booths have been closed down, and there’s also a mountain of medical supplies that are no longer needed Regular testing has been a part of life for many in China during the pandemic . It also created millions of jobs. Pharmacist Zhao Yonggang had been taking throat swabs at PCR testing booths in Beijing since May. But when the zero-Covid policy was suddenly abandoned in early December, mass testing was no longer required – and neither were the workers. Read more Amid Covid gloom, China’s tourism industry faces long road to rec overy Following eased pandemic controls, sector struggles to shake off three-year slump Travellers with less to spend booked shorter trips during the New Year holiday After China abandoned almost three years of stringent Covid-19 containment measures that had isolated the country and severely limited the movement of its people, the tourism industry has begun lurching back to life. It is expected to be a long road to recovery. Read more ‘China has turned the corner’: foreign business groups welcome reopening plan End to quarantine on arrival and resumption of international flights paves way for resumption of normal activity, American Chamber of Commerce in China says Easing coronavirus rules is also expected to enable more crucial in-person contact China’s latest reopening plan will help to rebuild foreign investors’ confidence in the Chinese market and go some way to repairing external relations, according to foreign business groups in the country. Beijing announced on Monday that it was dropping centralised quarantine and most Covid-19 testing for inbound travellers from January 8, making its biggest move yet to reopening its borders. Read more African traders welcome end of China’s Covid travel curbs Thousands of businesspeople from the continent have been unable to meet suppliers over the past 3 years Some traders say they have been able to source goods online, but others believe they will benefit from face-to-face contact African traders have welcomed China’s decision to lift the entry and exit restrictions that have prevented many from travelling to the country to do business for the past three years. Samuel Karanja, the chief executive of the Importers and Small Traders Association of Kenya, was one of the thousands of African traders who used to travel to the southern city of Guangzhou, which is home to a sizeable African community , to buy and source a wide variety of goods ranging from textiles and machinery to electronics and beauty products. Read more Coronavirus: US will require travellers from China to test negative for Covid-19 before entering American health officials are imposing the restriction, effective January 5, after China’s National Health Commission stopped releasing data on caseloads ‘We have just limited information in terms of what’s being shared related to the … cases that are increasing, hospitalisation and especially deaths,’ a US official says The US will require travellers arriving from China to test negative for Covid-19 before entering the country, amid concerns over China’s surging cases and a lack of reliable official data on the spread of the coronavirus, federal health officials said on Wednesday. “The United States is taking preventative, proactive steps to protect Americans’ public health,” one of the officials said. Read more China’s sudden shift from Covid-zero raises more questions than answers People who were grateful for the precautions are asking why the time wasn’t used to prepare for the current surge Officially, daily infections are in the thousands and deaths are minimal but social media outpourings paint a different picture “It all happened suddenly,” said Wang Guohong, his voice still hoarse from Covid-19 . Within days, the 46-year-old Beijing resident had gone from relief at seeing China’s stringent pandemic controls dismantled to helplessness, with his entire family infected by Omicron. Wang, who lost his job as an IT engineer when his multinational employer divested from China during zero-Covid, did not expect the lifting of the policy to throw his life into further disarray. Read more China’s reopening presents rest of world with dilemma: put out the welcome mat or tighten border controls? Countries such as the US, Japan and Italy are testing new arrivals, while other countries are actively courting Chinese tourists Many European countries as well as Australia and New Zealand have started campaigns on social media saying they welcome visitors from China Foreign governments have given a mixed reaction to the expected outflow of Chinese travellers following Beijing’s decision to lift travel curbs early next month . At least six governments have announced new restrictions on new arrivals from mainland China, but other countries have launched or stepped up campaigns aimed at attracting Chinese visitors with slogans such as “waiting for you” or “waiting until I see you”. Read more Covid-19 is ripping through China. Could a new variant of concern emerge? Some health experts believe a more severe variant is unlikely to appear, but say it’s critical to closely monitor the situation There could be ‘less pressure for the virus to evolve to evade immunity’ in the country after it stuck to strict pandemic curbs for so long As the coronavirus sweeps through China after it abandoned its zero-Covid policy, there are fears that a new variant of concern could emerge. But despite China’s low immunity and 1.4 billion population, some health experts believe a more severe version of the virus is unlikely to appear – though they say it is critical to stay vigilant and closely monitor the situation. Read more China orders Covid-19 sewage watch as ‘living with virus’ begins ‘Sewage surveillance’ appears on China’s national Covid-19 directives for the first time as last of zero-Covid curbs are lifted As many as 130 sub-lineages of the Omicron variant have been detected in China in the past three months China has finally caught up with monitoring waste water as an early warning system for the coronavirus , a practice followed by some countries since the early stages of the pandemic. “Sewage surveillance” – a technique piloted in megacities such as Beijing and Shenzhen – appeared on China’s national Covid-19 directives for the first time as central authorities issued a new list of monitoring strategies last week. Read more As Covid sweeps through China, drugs, medical devices are hottest tickets online Amid health scares and scarcity, oximeters and oxygen generators are must-haves Residents scour the internet for supplies fearing they won’t have them when they need them The first time Huang Lipeng came across a “pulse oximeter” was on Douyin, China’s version of TikTok, last week. The 30-year-old IT engineer from Zhuhai, in southern China’s Guangdong province, quickly bought an oximeter for his family after watching videos that said people with diabetes should pay special attention to their blood oxygen levels. Read more Global Impact is a fortnightly curated newsletter featuring a news topic originating in China with a significant macro impact for our newsreaders around the world. Sign up now!