International flights to Beijing resume after five months as China eases Covid-19 restrictions

Passengers in full protective suits make their way to a boarding gate in Beijing's Capital International Airport.
Passengers in full protective suits make their way to a boarding gate in Beijing's Capital International Airport.PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (AFP) - The first international flight in more than five months landed in China's capital on Thursday (Sept 3), with passengers greeted by airport staff in full hazmat suits as a ban on foreign arrivals in Beijing eased.

Chinese aviation authorities are allowing arrivals in Beijing under intense Covid-19 safety rules from Thailand, Cambodia, Pakistan, Greece, Denmark, Austria, Sweden and Canada - countries deemed low-risk for cross-border infections.

Footage from state broadcaster CCTV showed an Air China plane taxiing at the Beijing Capital International Airport after landing from the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh.

Passengers disembarked wearing masks and dragging luggage - some appeared to be in full protective suits - before going past Customs officials and police wearing visors and protective gear.

Travellers arriving in China need to show a negative coronavirus test before boarding, and are subject to centralised quarantine on arrival for 14 days, along with two more tests, officials said this week.

The number of passengers on direct international flights to Beijing is capped at 500 per day during a trial period, CCTV said.

Since late March, Beijing-bound international flights have been diverted to other Chinese cities, where passengers are screened for the coronavirus and quarantine.

Eleven cases were reported on Thursday in China, where the coronavirus first emerged late last year. Health officials said they were all imported.

China remains wary of the risk of an influx of cases from other countries now that its local outbreaks have been largely brought under control.

Most foreigners are still forbidden entry into the country.