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The Coronavirus also known as the Wuhan Virus after the city where the outbreak began, is an infectious respiratory disease that was first contained to Hubei Province in December 2019.
At the onset of the outbreak the government stepped up precautions to contain the epidemic, including an unprecedented travel ban that encompassed all cities surrounding Wuhan and impacting some 60 million residents. Despite the measures, cases did spread to other parts of the Mainland, the rest of Asia and many other countries creating a global health emergency. On March 11, 2020 the WHO declared the 2019-nCoV a pandemic.
Here are some FAQ's about the virus and precautions that should be taken when traveling to China.
What are the Symptoms of the Coronavirus?
- The incubation period for contracting the virus and the onset of symptoms is between six to 10 days.
- The new coronavirus causes a fever, fatigue, sore throat and dry cough in the early stages of the disease
- As the illness progresses, patients may experience difficulty breathing and shortness of breath
How is the Coronavirus transmitted?
Like other coronaviruses - such as the common cold - the virus is spread via droplets when a person coughs or sneezes. It can also be spread when someone touches a contaminated surface such as a door handle.
Latest Travel Restrictions and Quarantine Measures for Inbound Travelers to China
The situation is evolving and you should keep tabs on the latest news if you are planning on traveling to China so you know what to expect. As of April 27, 2020:
Although measures are easing in the hardest hit areas near Wuhan and Hubei and provinces are lowering alert levels, many transport hubs, including air and rail are running in a limited capacity as people begin to return to work. Schools and businesses have reopened throughout China and there is some sense of things returning to some degree of normalcy. But most importantly, China has shifted its focus from coronavirus cases inside the country to those arriving from abroad.
At this time, China has suspended the entry of most foreign nationals. Diplomatic, service, and C Visas are exempted from the ban as well as any new visas obtained from overseas Chinese embassies or consulates after the date of the announcement of the ban (March 26, 2020)
Since July 20, 2020, the CAAC has required both foreign and Chinese passengers flying into China to obtain COVID-19 negative certificates before boarding.
As of August 10, 2020, entry restrictions are being eased for travelers from 36 European countries with a valid residence permit and can apply for a visa without an invitation letter. Anyone coming from abroad is still subject to Covid-19 tests and a 14-day quarantine. And please note that everyone returning to China has to reapply for their visa, as travel documents issued before the pandemic have been nullified. These countries are: Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, North Macedonia, Malta, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Greece, and the United Kingdom.
Fast Track Arrangements: Various countries' embassies and chambers of commerce have been negotiating with the Chinese government to establish fast track channels which would enable travelers from both sides to enter each other's territories without serving quarantine periods. So far, China has signed fast track agreements with Germany, France, South Korea, UK, Japan, and Singapore.
Different quarantine policies apply in many provinces and they can be placed with little or no advance notice. You can see a comprhensive list of the latest travel policies including for Beijing and Shanghai here.
The US State Department's highest-level travel warning Level 4 for China Do Not Travel still stands.
The CDC's Level 3 Warning to avoid all non-essential travel to China is also still in effect.
Here's what to expect at the airports when arriving in Beijing and Shanghai.
Here's the latest on China Covid travel restrictions
Many of the most popular tourist attractions in China have begun to open:
- Beijing has reopened 73 major tourist sites including the Great Wall sites at Badaling, Mutianyu and Simatai. Most of the openings include outdoor spaces.
- In Shanghai, it has been touch and go as many attractions such as the Oriental Pearl TV tower and the Shanghai Tower as well as several theme parks reopened in late March only to close again as a second wave of infections were feared. Shoppers and diners have returned to the Bund Waterfront. Shanghai Disneyland theme park remains closed.
- In Hong Kong and Macau many popular attractions remain closed including Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park. The Ngong Ping Cable Car and Victoria Peak are open and Victoria Harbour Cruises are running. Here's the latest update on what's closed / open / cancelled, etc. in Hong Kong
Recommendations and Precautions to Prevent Infection
Some simple and common sense precautions all travelers and the regular population for that matter should follow:
- Wear a face mask when out in public places. They are mandatory in several provinces.
- Avoid contact with sick people
- Wash hands thoroughly and often
- Don't touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. If you need to touch your face, make sure your hands are clean
- Cover your mouth when coughing/sneezing, but not with your hand, use a tissue or your sleeve if you must
- Avoid touching animals (live or dead) and products that come from animals (such as uncooked meat)
- Avoid the wet markets, live bird markets and farms
- If showing any symptoms (high fever, coughing), get treatment right away
- If showing any symptoms after you return, advise your physician you have been in China. Before you go to a doctor's office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms
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