China relaxes Covid-19 testing rules for travellers from Singapore

Travellers from Singapore into China will no longer need to do a PCR test seven days before flying, nor antibody tests. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BEIJING - Travellers from Singapore to China will need to do fewer pre-departure tests for Covid-19 following changes announced by the Chinese embassy in Singapore on Friday (May 20), even as another district in Beijing went into a semi-lockdown on Saturday.

They will no longer need to do a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test seven days before flying, nor antibody tests, which used to be required.

The changes will take effect immediately, the embassy added in the notice on its public WeChat account.

But travellers from Singapore will still be required to isolate themselves for seven days - which can be done at home - before departure, and undergo two PCR tests two days before and within 24 hours of departure.

They will need to upload their test results and a letter stating their commitment to self-isolate for seven days to an Internet portal before they can attain a health code, which is necessary for entry into China.

Travellers will also need to do an antigen rapid test (ART) within six hours before boarding, on the day of check-in.

No changes were announced regarding quarantine upon arrival, which is at least two weeks depending on the city travelled to.

The changes for Singapore travellers follows China's slight easing of restrictions for those from the United States and Britain as well.

Still, despite the less stringent requirements, China remains one of the most difficult countries for travellers from Singapore to enter, given its current zero-Covid-19 policy towards fighting the pandemic.

"As the Covid-19 pandemic is still surging, and due to high-risk of cross-infection during cross-border travel, passengers shall continue to adhere to the principle of 'no travel for non-essential or non-urgent reasons'," the embassy said on Friday.

China is the world's only major economy sticking to a zero-Covid-19 policy.

Authorities use a combination of strict lockdowns, frequent testing and tough limits on overseas travel to keep outbreaks at bay.

Despite the changes, Mr Rayvan Ho, chief executive and founder at edutech firm Acktec Technologies, said that China's strict Covid-19 border controls are still a deterrence to him returning to Beijing, where he has an office.

He pointed to how a growing number of countries have already done away with PCR tests and self-isolation before flights, adding that China's latest restrictions do not go far enough to motivate him to return.

For now, his partner is running the operations in Beijing, Mr Ho said.

On Saturday, authorities in capital city Beijing ordered Haidian district's residents to work from home, minimise gatherings and refrain from going out.

Anyone entering any neighbourhood in Haidian district, Beijing's second-largest after Chaoyang, must also scan their health codes and ensure that they have nucleic test results released within the past 48 hours.

Delivery riders will be barred from entering the neighbourhoods in Haidian district.

In Chaoyang, authorities have also sent all residents of a large housing complex into quarantine after a total of 26 cases of Covid-19 were discovered in the compound, the Beijing Youth Daily newspaper reported.

Residents of the compound were moved to a centre for seven days of quarantine from Saturday, according to the report, which cited a notice issued Friday by the virus control and prevention command of Nanmofangxiang.

The first infections at the complex were found on May 12, it said.

Chaoyang district remains under semi-lockdown with residents asked to work from home, while some areas of Fengtai district in Beijing remain under lock down, with dine-in services and in-person classes in schools suspended.

Beijing reported 33 new Covid-19 cases as at 3pm on Saturday.

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