More than half a million people have crossed mainland China’s borders daily since Beijing lifted its zero-Covid restrictions on January 8, according to figures released on Tuesday by the National Immigration Administration. The average daily port arrival and departure numbers have increased by 48.2 per cent compared with figures from during China’s zero-Covid restrictions, the data showed. However, the average number of crossings at 501,000 was only a quarter of the pre-pandemic level. Top Chinese diplomats urge EU, Asian nations to drop travel restrictions “As permit applications and immigration clearances return to normal, the volume of permits processed and the number of arrivals and departures will continue to grow until they reach pre-pandemic levels,” said Lin Yongsheng, an immigration administration spokesman. Authorities said they processed an average of 340,100 permit applications per day, more than twice the number before the zero-Covid policy was lifted, but the number is half of pre-pandemic levels. In 2022, the administration recorded a total of 115 million arrivals and departures at mainland Chinese ports, with mainland residents accounting for 64.6 million of the crossings, while residents of Hong Kong , Macau and Taiwan accounted for 46 million crossings. China’s retaliation over Covid travel curbs could be a diplomatic own goal By comparison, in 2019, a total of 670 million port arrivals and departures were recorded, with 350 million of those crossings made by mainland residents. China closed its borders to nearly all travellers in March 2020, and imposed strict quarantine measures. Under its zero-Covid strategy, where the top priority was to prevent infections at all costs, China tightened visa rules and banned entry to most non-Chinese nationals, even if they held valid documents. Nearly three years later, China reopened its borders to international travellers and resumed processing passport applications for mainland residents. China has also restarted issuing visas for Chinese and foreigners, with 3,200 visa application counters operating at 53 border checkpoints. Authorities said travel crossings at major international airports as well as the Shenzhen Futian Port – which connects Hong Kong and Shenzhen – have been smooth, with waiting times of less than 30 minutes. The immigration administration estimated a daily average of 600,000 people would exit and enter China’s borders during the Spring Festival holiday, which would be triple the number from the same period last year, but still less than one-third of the pre-pandemic levels recorded in 2019. The passenger flows at land ports bordering Hong Kong and Macau were expected to grow steadily, immigration officials said, with the number of travellers expected to peak on Friday, just ahead of Lunar New Year, and then again towards the end of the holiday. Authorities projected the average number of people crossing at the Zhuhai Gong Bei port connecting the mainland to Macau would hit 277,000 a day during the period.