China’s Travel Restrictions due to COVID-19: An Explainer

China’s Travel Restrictions due to COVID-19: An Explainer

Chinese provinces and cities have rolled out different quarantine policies, such as quarantining travelers from overseas or other parts of the country for two weeks in a designated hotel or at home.This article provides information on the latest travel policies in China – implemented temporarily due to COVID-19 – and meant to contain any internal spread of the coronavirus.

International Travel Restrictions

From midnight (0 a.m.) of March 28, 2020, China suspended the entry of most foreign nationals, citing the temporary measure as a response to the rapid spread of COVID-19 across the world. The announcement was made by China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on March 26, two days ahead of schedule.According to the announcement, foreigners who hold the following visas, even valid ones, are not allowed to enter China now:

  • Chinese visa
  • Residence permit
  • APEC business travel card
  • Port visa

The ban also applies on those who are planning to enter the country under the following policies:

  • 24/72/144-hour visa free transit policy
  • Hainan 30-day visa free policy
  • 15-day visa free policy for foreign cruise group tours through Shanghai Port
  • Guangdong 144-hour visa free policy for foreign group tours from Hong Kong or Macau SAR
  • Guangxi 15-day visa free policy for foreign tour groups of ASEAN countries.

However, those who hold the following visas will not be affected:

  • Diplomatic, service, courtesy, or C visas
  • New visa successfully applied for from Chinese embassies or consulates overseas after the announcement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Provincial Travel Restrictions

Many provinces and cities require 14-day mandatory home-based or centralized quarantine for inbound travelers either from overseas or other Chinese provinces and cities, although the policy details can differ.Here, we’ve consolidated a table detailing the latest travel policies across the country for your convenience.

For example, in Beijing, all travelers from overseas must pay for their own 14-day quarantine at designated hotels. Those older than 70, younger than 14, pregnant, with underlying medical conditions, or in other special situations – can apply for self-isolation at home.Similarly, from March 28, all overseas travelers arriving in Shanghai will be quarantined at designated places for 14-day medical observation (although just previously, the city had only required inbound travelers who transferred through or came from 24 countries hit hard by the virus to do so).

Color-coded Health Scheme to Monitor for COVID-19

Since the beginning of February, Chinese tech giants Tencent and Alibaba have launched health code related services in Shenzhen, Hangzhou, and other cities. The health code systems of Tencent and Alibaba are embedded in their popular messaging app WeChat and payment app Alipay. Residents will get a colored health code after reporting information, such as ID card, address, health status, contact history, and residence history in the apps.Each city’s health code has a set of rules. Taking Hangzhou as an example, after the systematic analysis of personal information, the system will generate a color code to be obtained by individuals. Among them, the ‘green’ code can allow citizens to move around the city freely; the ‘red’ code and ‘yellow’ code may subject the code owner to 14 days and seven days of quarantine, respectively, at home or at a designated hotel.The non-unified color-coded health systems in different regions of the country are adding layers of inconvenience to intercity travelers. We recommend that travelers check their destination’s quarantine policies and brace themselves for the locally-adopted color health code system in advance to avoid any obstacles on their way.


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