In an announcement today, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said that anyone looking to travel to China must now provide a negative COVID-19 test before boarding. China is looking to minimize imported cases of COVID as an increase in international travel has resulted in a surge of outbreaks. Previously, passengers could choose to test for the virus upon arrival in China with test results in under eight hours.
The new testing regulations mean passengers must get tested within five days before boarding a flight to China. The nucleic test must be carried out at a facility that has been recognized and approved by Chinese embassies. The embassies will assess the available testing facilities in various countries and may introduce different restrictions based on capacity.
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While this may help protect China’s population from the virus brought by international travelers, the lack of testing facilities around the world may impact airlines. Many countries are struggling to provide enough testing to match growing demand locally. With China now placing the cost of testing on the host nation, we may see more countries opt for similar options rather than testing citizens as they leave and as they arrive.
For example, someone arriving in one country would be tested on arrival using that country’s resources. Someone leaving the same country to travel to China will also use their testing facilities. The result is that one country has paid for two tests, while China hasn’t paid for any. This discrepancy between approaches means we will likely see changes to testing regulations continue around the world.
New Chinese restrictions
China’s new rules coincide with further restrictions on air travel to the country. Several airlines have been suspended from flying directly into China after at least five passengers tested positive with the virus. Last week, over 600 flights were canceled in the western Xinjiang region after the first case of the virus was reported in almost five months. Beijing, which had been coronavirus free for nearly two weeks, has now declared a flurry of new cases.
With some test results taking up to two weeks in some countries due to high demand, it may be impractical to be tested just five days before flying. This may result in fewer passengers looking to travel to China. The knock-on effect means airlines who are looking to ramp up their services, may see a second drop in demand for flights to mainland China.
Flying to China
Although China is currently restricting some flights, it has also granted permission for some airlines to increase the number of flights to mainland China. China isn’t the only country concerned about the rising number of cases. France has joined the growing list of countries restricting how many flights can arrive from mainland China.
Air France was hoping to operate to China three times a week, but French authorities stated only one flight was allowed to land. Several other countries, including the US and the UK, have also placed restrictions on flights from China due to fears this could lead to a spike in cases.
While these restrictions look set to lift with more flights resuming every week, we could still see more limitations. Testing at airports has become standard procedure over the last months. The lack of demand meant that facilities weren’t pushed to capacity. Now, as routes reopen and restrictions loosen, we will see if testing everyone at airports is feasible in the long run.
What do you think of China’s new testing restrictions? Are we about to see a second wave of the virus? Should more countries restrict international travel? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.