Traveling to China during Covid-19: What you need to know before you go

Editor’s Note — Coronavirus cases remain high across the globe. Health officials caution that travel increases your chances of getting and spreading the virus. Staying home is the best way to stem transmission. Below is information on what to know if you still plan to travel, last updated on March 23.

(CNN) — If you’re planning a trip to China, here’s what you’ll need to know and expect if you want to visit during the global coronavirus pandemic.

The basics

The Covid-19 pandemic started in China’s Wuhan province, but early and strict lockdowns means the country has got it under control. However, most visitors are not yet allowed entry.

What’s on offer

This is of course one of the world’s greatest ancient civilizations. China brought us papermaking, printing, and, of course, tea. Its many dynasties have left their marks in world-famous heritage sites, such as the Great Wall, the Terracotta Warriors of Xian, and ancient towns such as Lijiang. But it’s also thoroughly modern, with mushrooming cities and skyscrapers pricking the clouds.

Who can go

China closed its borders to nearly all travelers in March 2020, when the pandemic started spreading throughout Europe.

On March 15, 2021, restrictions were eased for a select number of travelers from 23 countries. Those coming for work or for humanitarian reasons — such as reuniting with family — can apply for visas, as can holders of the APEC Business Travel Card. Residents may also return. All categories, however, must have been vaccinated with Chinese-made vaccines at least 15 days earlier.

China already has a Fast Lane agreement with Singapore, allowing business travelers. Business travelers from South Korea are also allowed in.

The vaccine news has given hope that at some point in the future, borders might reopen to vaccinated tourists, too. China’s foreign ministry says the move is about kickstarting international travel in an “orderly fashion.”

What are the restrictions?

All travelers must present two negative tests — PCR and antibody tests — taken within 48 hours of travel.

For the newly qualified entrants, entry depends on having received two doses of Chinese-made Covid-19 vaccines at least 14 days prior to entry. They must apply for a visa in advance, and show their proof of vaccination on arrival, as well as the negative tests.

Arrivals are screened once more at the airport. Those failing the checks will be sent to government facilities. You must then quarantine on arrival. Some regions demand 14 days; others, 21. This might take place at a government facility or at your home.

What’s the Covid situation?

China has reported just over 90,000 cases and 4,636 deaths as of March 23, 2021.

What can visitors expect?

Life is largely back to normal, but things can change fast in China — regional lockdowns have been imposed every time there are new outbreaks of the virus, most recently in an area near Beiijng. The capital was placed on partial lockdown in January.

Useful links

Our recent coverage

CNN’s Julia Buckley contributed to this report