Severity: Critical Alert

Exit/Entry: Officials further ease COVID-19 measures in China as of July 21. Entry ban in place with exceptions. Expect restrictions in outbreak areas.

  • Alert Begins: 21 Jul 2020 05:42 AM UTC
  • Alert Expires: 14 Aug 2020 11:59 PM UTC
  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): Mainland China (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Transport disruptions, health screenings, quarantine measures, business disruptions, supply chain interruptions

Authorities continue to gradually ease restrictions across China amid reduced coronavirus disease (COVID-19) activity nationally. Most local and provincial governments, which are responsible for the COVID-19 response, have reduced their public health emergency levels and ended internal movement controls in recent weeks. However, mandatory temperature checks and health screenings are ongoing at businesses, tourist sites, and transport hubs nationwide. Officials require residents to wear masks in public areas across the country. The use of color-coded health passes - most commonly via a mini-program in the WeChat mobile phone app - to track individual movement and access to businesses and long-distance transport continues.

The government is designating the risk level of areas throughout the country based on the following levels of COVID-19 activity:

Low risk: Locations with no new confirmed COVID-19 cases and no confirmed cases within 14 consecutive days.

Medium risk: Areas where COVID-19 activity does not exceed 50 cases within 14 days, or more than 50 cases have occurred but have not emerged within 14 days. No clusters reported within two weeks.

High risk: Places where new confirmed COVID-19 cases surpass 50 and a cluster has been reported within 14 days.

Domestic Restrictions
Authorities have eased business restrictions throughout much of the country. Officials have allowed cinemas to reopen in low-risk areas of the country as of July 20. Nonessential businesses, including gyms, sporting venues, theaters, and libraries, museums, and tourist sites, have also reopened. Restaurants, malls, supermarkets, and hotels have also resumed operations. However, operators must ensure physical distancing in indoor areas and implement reservation systems, stagger entrance times for larger venues, and conduct temperature checks, among other measures. Reopening schedules are likely to vary across the country.

Production has restarted at industrial facilities, though some localized disruptions continue. Authorities in many locations require workers to undergo health screenings and testing before resuming work in factories, while temperature checks are occurring at schools, office buildings, and businesses. Many companies that have resumed operations continue to restrict operating hours and implement work-from-home policies.

The central government previously approved the resumption of interprovincial tour group travel. As of July 21, at least 10 provincial and municipality governments - including Shanghai, Beijing, Hubei, Guangdong, Jiangxi, and Sichuan - have allowed travel to begin. Tourist sites can also receive visitors up to 50 percent of capacity.

Local governments are highly likely to tighten movement and business restrictions in medium- and high-risk areas that experience a spike in COVID-19 cases. Authorities in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region introduced restrictions July 17, after several COVID-19 cases emerged in Urumqi. Officials suspended public transport and closed restaurants in the city. Authorities have advised residents to postpone nonessential travel outside of Urumqi; travelers must have negative COVID-19 test results before traveling outside the city. Although restrictions will vary, local officials will almost certainly apply movement restrictions, close businesses, and restrict capacity at entertainment and cultural venues in areas where further outbreaks occur. Curbs on intercity travel for residents living in high- and medium-risk areas of affected locations are also possible. Increased security is almost certain in any location under enhanced restrictions to enforce the measures. Supply chain and other business disruptions will probably occur in cities that report COVID-19 outbreaks in the coming weeks. The sudden closure of educational institutions is also possible.

Ground transport has resumed nationwide, except locations combating COVID-19 outbreaks. Officials in some major cities require health codes to use public transport. Health checks are increasing passenger clearance times at airports, train stations, and subway stations. However, localized disruptions remain possible for areas deemed high or medium risk. Officials are likely to erect roadblocks and checkpoints into cities and counties following outbreaks.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) is allowing more international commercial flights to operate. The CAAC has tied airline flight volume to COVID-19 testing outcomes for passengers. If a foreign carrier achieves three weeks with no passengers testing positive, officials will permit one more flight on preexisting routes. If five passengers test positive for any carrier, CAAC will suspend the airline's operations for one week and four weeks if 10 of the airline's passengers test positive. CAAC will limit total international flights to 64 per week. Despite the resumption of more international flights, disruptions are likely to continue in the coming weeks. Authorities continue to limit Chinese airlines' operations and limit capacity on aircraft. Many airlines have suspended services to and from mainland China due to health concerns and significantly decreased demand. CAAC has lifted all restrictions on cargo flights to airports in Beijing.

Travel Restrictions
Authorities have banned most foreign nationals from entering China indefinitely, except for diplomatic personnel and C visa holders, which are generally flight and shipping crew members. Foreign nationals present in China before the ban are not required to leave the country. Officials are permitting essential business travel from Singapore and South Korea under fast-track arrangements. Travel is possible between Singapore and Guangdong, Jiangsu, and Zhejiang provinces and Chongqing, Shanghai, and Tianjin municipalities. However, officials will continue to limit the total number of passengers under the program. Companies or government agencies can apply for special passes for inbound visitors, who will be required to test negative for COVID-19 within 48 hours of their departure and obtain a visa; visa-free travel remains suspended for Singaporean nationals. Passengers will undergo COVID-19 testing again upon arrival in China and isolate at designated facilities (usually hotels) until their results are available. Business travelers testing negative will adhere to a pre-agreed itinerary and refrain from using public transport, except for private hire vehicles, for the first 14 days. The travelers will also have to download and use a health pass while in the country. Arriving passengers testing positive for COVID-19 will undergo health treatment at their own expense. Authorities previously approved a fast-track arrangement for business travelers from South Korea to 10 Chinese locations, including Shanghai and Liaoning, Shandong, Jiangsu, and Anhui provinces. Passengers must have an invitation from a Chinese business to qualify for entry. Approved travelers will have to undergo testing in South Korea within 72 hours of travel and again during a one- or two-day quarantine in China.

Officials in Beijing continue to divert international flights to nearby cities, where passengers receive health scans; symptomatic passengers receive treatment locally. Asymptomatic passengers are then allowed to continue to Beijing. All inbound international flights must land at Beijing Capital Airport (PEK), where passengers will undergo further health assessments and review their travel history with authorities before quarantine. The municipal government allows travelers in specific categories to self-quarantine; residents who live alone, travelers over 70 years old, pregnant women, and travelers with underlying conditions may seek permission to stay at home.

Governments in border provinces continue international movement controls to prevent imported COVID-19 cases. Authorities in Yunnan, Guangxi, Inner Mongolia, and Heilongjiang are restricting the movement through land borders. Most travelers, regardless of nationality, are barred from entering or exiting border checkpoints. Although exceptions are in place for cargo transport, backlogs are possible at border checkpoints. Officials in Guangdong Province allow Macau citizens to travel to nine cities in the province without quarantine requirements for all purposes. After crossing the border, Macau citizens can travel to Zhuhai, Dongguan, Foshan, Guangzhou, Huizhou, Jiangmen, Shenzhen, Zhaoqing, and Zhongshan. Travelers must still receive approval from Macau health authorities via an online application, complete a travel and health declaration, hold a green health code, and provide evidence of a negative nucleic acid COVID-19 test valid for seven days. Macau arrivals must also use the Guangdong Health Code to track their symptoms daily if staying in the province for less than two weeks. Guangdong authorities are requiring a negative COVID-19 test result for travelers from Hong Kong, as well as quarantine for 14 days unless exempted.

Authorities are enforcing quarantine measures for international travelers. Officials generally allow nonresident passengers to stay in government-designated hotels at their own cost. While most quarantine periods are 14 days, some cities in border areas require inbound travelers to self-quarantine and undergo medical observation for another 14 days. Authorities continue to conduct health screenings, including body temperature scans and nucleic acid testing, at ports of entry nationwide. Arriving Chinese nationals must also provide health information through WeChat before boarding flights.

Unless repatriating, consider postponing nonessential travel to mainland China. Confirm all scheduled international flights. Follow all official instructions and closely monitor official announcements on any other precautionary restrictions. To the extent possible, avoid crowded areas as a precaution. Confirm all travel and business reservations. Allow additional travel time due to screenings at airports, train stations, and other transport hubs. Make allowances for likely supply chain and other business disruptions.

Exercise basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.

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