China reopens its border for the first time since 2020
China is bracing for an uptick in travel as people enter the mainland from Hong Kong for the first time in years
China reopened its border to international visitorson Sunday, for the first time since March 2020.
Beijing shut down borders to contain the coronavirus pandemic, largely maintaining strict quarantine rules to keep the infection from spreading throughout the country.
But the Chinese government dropped many of the strict measures last month, following a wave of protests against the so-called Zero Covid policy.
Now, China is opening to visitors, with people in Hong Kong crossing the border to see their families in the mainland in three years.
That residents from Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous territory in southeastern China, are being able to cross the border into mainland China is one of the most visible signs of the country easing its restrictions on travel.
The easing of COVID-19 restrictions also coincide with the beginning of the Lunar New Year Spring Festival.
China celebrates Lunar New Year
The Lunar New Year is celebrated over a period of 40 days, typically with families, across the country. Also known as the Chinese New Year, the holiday is also commemorated by communities in other Asian countries as well.
This year, the Lunar New Year holiday, or "Chunyun" in Chinese, officially begins January 21, and will be the first since 2020 without domestic travel restrictions.
The holiday was considered one of the busiest on the planet before COVID-19, with Chinese people either heading home from elsewhere or people crisscrossing thousands of miles across the country to see their families.
How are people feeling about China reopening?
"It's been more than three years since I last saw my parents, and the reopening means our family can finally be reunited," Tony Wang, a Chinese student in Australia told DW.
"We've been planning a family reunion since Beijing announced the plan to ease border control last month, and hopefully, we can all be celebrating the Lunar New Year in few weeks," Wang said.
But even as people began lining up in Hong Kong to cross the border into China for the first time in nearly three years, some wondered about the possibility of the spread of COVID-19.
"When the Chinese government fails to contain the domestic COVID-19 pandemic, they suddenly decide to relax it and now it's going to spread to Hong Kong and the rest of the world," a resident in Hong Kong told DW.
The resident, whose surname is Tsa, declined to reveal their full name because of the sensitive nature of the topic.
People waiting to enter mainland China
The Global Times, an English-language Chinese newspaper, quoted a port official in Shenzhen, a city on the the border with Hong Kong, as saying that about 200 passengers were expected to take the ferry to Hong Kong on the first day of the reopening.
Another 700 were were waiting on traveling from Hong Kong to the mainland, the newspaper reported.
Hong Kong media reported that 300,000 travel bookings from Hong Kong to mainland China were already in place, with the daily limit set to 60,000.
International visitors still sparse
Even though China reopened on Sunday, only a few international flights landed at major Chinese airports.
Shanghai, China's largest city, saw one of the first international flights land this morning under revised coronavirus policies.
China no longer requires people to quarantine, but international arrivals are yet to pick up given a surge in COVID-19 infections in the country.
Portugal became the latest European country on Saturday to introduce COVID-19 testing requirements for people arriving from China.
Even though easing of restrictions is meant to reinvigorate the Chinese economy, the chaotic reopening signals that the road to recovery will be harder since people are more cautious about the future.
A Chinese woman surnamed Liu told DW that while the news about China reopening was uplifting, she thinks that the "pandemic has damaged the Chinese economy and many people are still struggling financially."
"It'll take a while for many people to bring their lives back on track again" she added.
The report was written with the contributions of DW's William Yang and in part with material from The Associated Press news agency.
Edited by Jenipher M. Camino Gonzalez