BEIJING: China is poised to resume direct international flights to Beijing from several countries with low rates of the deadly coronavirus, aviation authorities said on Wednesday, after a freeze of more than five months.
The new rules will apply from Thursday to flights from Pakistan, Thailand, Cambodia, Greece, Denmark, Austria, Sweden and Canada, all with low numbers of imported cases of the virus which has hammered global travel.
But travellers would be subject to centralised quarantine on arrival for 14 days and have to take two Covid-19 tests, a Beijing city official told reporters.
“Starting September 3, international passenger flights to Beijing, which previously had their entry points diverted, will gradually resume,” said the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) in a statement, without specifying if passengers would have to be nationals of the eight countries.
The easing begins “as epidemic prevention and control becomes normalised”, it said, but stressed a “circuit breaker” would remain and previous curbs would be re-imposed if more than three passengers test positive for the coronavirus upon arrival.
Since late March, Beijing-bound international flights have been diverted to other Chinese cities where passengers are screened for the coronavirus before being allowed to travel on to Beijing, the political heart of the country.
They would then be sent to quarantine facilities.
As of Tuesday, the CAAC said 511 international flights had undergone diversion.
Life in Beijing has largely returned to normal, although temperature tests remain common when entering buildings and some places require people to scan a QR code logging their visit on a ubiquitous health app.
The easing in flight rules comes as the rate of infection slowed to eight reported cases on Wednesday in China — where the first cases of Covid-19 surfaced.
But China remains wary of the risk of an influx of cases from other countries.
Most foreigners are still forbidden entry into the country.
China — excluding Hong Kong and Macau — has to date declared 85,066 Covid-19 cases, including 4,634 deaths and 80,234 recoveries.
Latin America and the Caribbean have 280,367 deaths from 7,437,660 cases, Europe 216,403 deaths from 4,025,582 infections, and the United States and Canada 193,854 deaths from 6,205,463 cases.
Asia reported 99,555 deaths from 5,332,109 cases, the Middle East 36,873 deaths from 1,515,498 cases, Africa 30,065 deaths from 1,261,375 cases, and Oceania 707 deaths from 29,320 cases.
Published in Dawn, September 3rd, 2020