While China’s move to cut quarantine time for travellers is “a step forward”, more should be done to do away with restrictions, which are a “disincentive” for travel, says IATA.

The industry body’s comments come amid the first significant easing of travel curbs to be announced from Beijing, where inbound travellers will only need to spend seven days in quarantine, instead of 14. 

China flag

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China also recently removed Covid-19 test requirements for inbound travellers from a number of countries including the USA. 

IATA’s regional vice president for north Asia Xie Xingquan says: “Evidence confirms that border measures are not an effective global strategy to control a pandemic.  As long as there is still a quarantine, it will be a disincentive for people considering travel to China, especially when many parts of Asia are already allowing quarantine free travel.”

In May, IATA director-general Willie Walsh called China’s continued closure a “clearly disappointing” move, though he noted that it would not pose a key challenge to regional recovery, with airlines already reassessing the importance of the Chinese market. 

China is one of the last few major economies in the world to doggedly pursue a ‘zero-Covid’ strategy, one which has reduced international travel demand to record lows. 

China’s civil aviation regulators impose what is known as a ‘circuit breaker’ mechanism for inbound international flights, where an airline has to suspend flights for a specific period if it is found to be carrying Covid-positive passengers. 

It also put a tight lid on international flight quotas, with airlines only allowed one or two flights per week. 

It also appears that Beijing’s ‘zero-Covid’ strategy is unlikely to go away any time soon: a report from state-owned media, citing a top official, claims Beijing would maintain its pandemic curbs “for the next five years”. 

The disclosure was later attributed to be a misquote and any reference of a timeline for the pandemic curbs was scrubbed from the internet.