China reopens borders in final farewell to zero-COVID

STORY: For the first time since March 2020, China has lifted pandemic restrictions on foreign travel and reopened its borders to international visitors.

The easing of restrictions marks the final unravelling of the country’s controversial zero-COVID policy.

For the past few years it shielded China's 1.4 billion people from the virus, but also cut them off from the rest of the world.

Now, incoming travellers will no longer need to quarantine, only provide a negative PCR test taken within the previous 48 hours.

At Beijing Capital International Airport, long awaited reunions at the arrivals hall - that would have been impossible just a day ago - are finally a reality.

[International Relations University Professor in Beijing, John, saying:] "Our daughter is coming in today because there is no quarantine. So we’re just thrilled that China has done away with the quarantine policy and that’s why she chose this flight for today because it’s the first day when people can just come right off the airplane and go home."

Investors hope the reopening will reinvigorate a $17-trillion economy suffering its slowest growth in nearly half a century.

The border opening comes ahead of the start of the lunar new year, which was pre-pandemic the biggest annual migration in the world.

Some 2 billion trips are expected this season, nearly double last year’s movement.

But the abrupt policy reversal has triggered a massive wave of infections that is overwhelming some hospitals and causing business disruptions.

Several governments, worried about China’s current COVID spike have imposed restrictions on outbound travellers.

The easing of restrictions comes after historic protests against China’s COVID policy, that saw frequent testing, curbs on movement and mass lockdowns that heavily damaged the second-biggest economy.