Travel restrictions, Flight operations and Screening

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Last updated 28 February 2020: 10:00 UTC

 

Countries with internal restrictions

China

Chinese authorities have since 10 February begun a gradual de-escalation of restrictions aimed at enabling a resumption of business as usual outside Hubei province, where restrictions are most stringent. Levels of mobility and community restrictions remain varied across the country, ranging from a cordon sanitaire in some cities to mandatory use of masks in public spaces.

As of 28 February, 15 provinces have de-escalated the COVID-19 response level from level one (highest in four-tier system) to two or three, including Anhui, Gansu, Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Inner Mongolia, Jiangsu, Jilin, Liaoning, Qinghai, Shanxi, Shaanxi, Sichuan, Xinjiang and Yunnan.

From 26 February, a three-tier (low, medium, high) COVID-19 risk rating system at county level will be implemented nationwide except for Hubei province and the capital Beijing. The level of restriction will be in accordance with risk level as below:

  • Low risk area: full resumption of business and life, while minding imported case prevention.

  • Medium risk area: gradually resume production and work as soon as possible, while stressing on imported case prevention and in-area case spreading.

  • High risk area: focus on pandemic control: prevention of in-area case spreading and case exporting, while ensuring operations of essential social operations.

Public Transport
There has been a gradual resumption of bus services, taxi and car-hailing services and Metro service. As of 24 February, in-city bus service has been resumed in 505 cities, 71% of all cities that provide bus service. Also, 35 of 41 cities with rail MRT service have resumed service and 27 provinces have resumed inter-province/city bus service. Restrictions on movement of private cars are lifted in many cities. Many railway stations have resumed operation as well as airports outside Hubei, although still far from 100% resumption.

Road movement
Similarly, a majority of provinces have opened the entries/exits that were previously closed and removed checkpoints. According to the authorities, by 25 February road transportation obstacles throughout the country had largely been removed except for Hubei province and Beijing.

At the checkpoints, drivers and passengers are requested to go through temperature screening, provide detailed itinerary and contact information at check points. Voluntary road blockages in villages are being removed gradually.

The level of stringency of the above measures varies as the risk level remains fluid. The general trend is an easing of restrictions outside Hubei. Currently, with all entry/exit channels shut or suspended, Hubei province is considered to be in ‘lockdown’. Restrictions in major urban centres like Guangzhou, Shanghai and Shenzhen (Guangdong province) are much lighter with all public transport available.

Domestic quarantine requirements

As per the guideline from China National Health Commission (NHC), a 14-day mandatory quarantine is required for travellers travelling from or through Hubei province, which is implemented in most cities. However, local governments have the authority to make specific requirements based on local outbreak situations. Some cities have expanded such requirements to travellers from other provinces with a high number of 2019-nCoV cases like Zhejiang and Guangdong provinces. Cities like Chongqing and Harbin (Heilongjiang province) request 14 days’ mandatory quarantine for all incoming travellers. It is recommended that travellers check with the residents' committee before departure to confirm quarantine requirements as they can vary from one district to another even within the same city.

With the spreading of COVID-19 outside of China, specific restrictions are being implemented for inbound international travellers from countries considered relatively severely affected, like South Korea and Japan. E.g. from 25 February, Weihai city in Shandong province has requested all inbound travellers from South Korea and Japan to undergo mandatory 14-day quarantine in designated hotels, with the government paying. Similar measures to prevent imported cases are likely to be implemented in more locations as the situation develops.

Community level restrictions

Many provinces and cities have fully implemented community 'close-off' style management which means:

  • Turning open or semi-open communities into 'close-off' style management ones.

  • A reduction of exit/entry access to the community.

  • Access control of visitors and visiting vehicles: ID check/registration, temperature measurement at gate, delivery service is to be picked up at the gate of community etc.

  • Restrictions of residents’ outdoor activities: some communities have limited the residents’ outgoing activities, e.g. one person per household will be allowed to go out of the community every certain number of days, or residents are requested to stay at home completely with supplies delivered to households by community workers.

  • Mandatory use of masks.

  • If there are confirmed cases in a certain community, there might be a closure of certain units/areas for quarantine depending on the severity of the local outbreak.

Such restrictions are easing as well, although at a slower pace compared with resumption of transportation services.

Other measures

The wearing of masks for outdoor activities is mandatory in many places. Temperature screening measures are commonly seen at airports, train stations, shopping mall entrances and office buildings.

Hubei province

Movement restrictions in Hubei province remain in place and are the most stringent in the country. The government has advised against travel out of cities and urged residents to minimise movement within cities. Most public transport, including buses, taxis, trains and flights, remains suspended or reduced. In some cities, private transport is generally not allowed on roads, particularly in Huanggang and Wuhan.

On 17 February, the government made it illegal for people in Hubei to leave their homes or drive their private vehicles. Local communities have made their own rules to govern how often families may leave their homes to purchase groceries or conduct other tasks. Medical, food, hotel and chemist businesses are allowed to continue operations but all other businesses are required to remain closed.

Beijing

The Beijing authorities on 21 February announced that travellers matching the profiles below entering the city are not required to undergo the 14-day self-quarantine, though they are still subject to stringent health screening measures including temperature checks and completion of health declaration forms:

  • All inbound travellers who have not been to China in the previous 14 days who enter from Beijing Capital International Airport or Daxin International Airport.

  • Short-term domestic travellers entering from other provinces, excluding Hubei province.

Hong Kong (SAR)

Most routes to/from mainland China remain closed, leaving only Hong Kong International Airport (HKG), the Shenzhen Bay checkpoint and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge open. The Kai Tak and Ocean cruise terminals are also closed. Non-Hong Kong residents returning from South Korea, as well as travellers who have been to South Korea in the 14 days prior to arrival, will be denied entry. All residents returning from Daegu city or Gyeongbuk province will have a mandatory 14-day quarantine. Residents returning from other Korean cities and provinces will be required to undergo medical surveillance for 14 days.

Protesters continue to call for further action to pressure the government to close all routes to mainland China. Besides the closure of the ten routes to mainland China, the authorities have suspended ferries and high-speed trains, as well as the Hong Kong section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link and the Intercity Through Train which is served by Hung Hom Station. Individuals who have visited Hubei province, the centre of the outbreak, in the 14 days before arriving in Hong Kong are also barred from entering the city. All travellers entering Hong Kong are required to complete and submit health declaration forms.

Taiwan (China)

The authorities can be expected to impose stringent health screening measures in all ports of entry, including airports and seaports. The authorities have not implemented any further in-country restrictions thus far; however, such measures may be imposed at short notice in the coming weeks. Increased restrictions are possible for travellers upon return to their country of origin, including entry restrictions and mandatory quarantine.

Macao (SAR)

The authorities can be expected to impose stringent health screening measures in all ports of entry, including airports and seaports. The authorities have not implemented any further in-country restrictions thus far; however, such measures may be imposed at short notice in the coming weeks. Increased restrictions are possible for travellers upon return to their country of origin, including entry restrictions and mandatory quarantine.

 

Italy

Movement restrictions on 22 February were announced in several towns in the country's Lombardy and Veneto regions, forbidding people from entering or leaving affected districts for 14 days. Several regions across Italy have implemented restrictions to prevent the spread of the disease such as closing schools and blocking public and private events.

 

Japan

No movement restrictions are in place in Japan. The authorities can be expected to impose stringent health screening measures in all ports of entry, including airports and seaports. The authorities have not implemented any further in-country restrictions thus far; however, such measures may be imposed at short notice in the coming weeks. In an announcement on 28 February, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that all schools across the country will be closed from 2 March. This follows a worsening of the situation in the country, specifically in Hokkaido prefecture where a state of emergency has been declared. Residents are advised to stay indoors throughout the weekends and schools in the prefecture will be closed next week.

They have also advised all people to avoid large gatherings and for those already in areas with an uptick in COVID-19 cases to stay inside their homes. While no nationwide directive to cancel events has been issued, the government has asked event sponsors to consider whether they are necessary.

 

Malaysia

Stringent health screening measures can be expected at all ports of entry, including airports and seaports. The authorities have stated that official gatherings or activities in public places in Malaysia may continue, with the decision to cancel events remaining at the discretion of organisers.

The authorities in Sarawak have banned the entry of all foreign nationals who have travelled to mainland China within the previous 14 days. The Sabah authorities have temporarily restricted entry for Chinese passport holders. On 28 February, the ministry of health announced that South Korean travellers will be temporarily denied entry into the country. Furthermore, foreign travellers who have been to Daegu or Cheongdo will also face similar entry restrictions.

Cruise ships travelling from China are no longer allowed to dock at Malaysian ports and the authorities have barred entry for any further passengers from the MS Westerdam cruise ship that docked in Cambodia on 13 February. Furthermore, travellers arriving in Sarawak from Singapore for short-term visits, including transits, have been ordered to adhere to health guidelines issued by the health ministry. The ministry has since clarified that they are not required to undergo self-quarantine.

 

Singapore

The government has advised that all non-essential 'large-scale' events be either cancelled or deferred. All members of organisations and educational institutions intending to visit Singapore are advised to reconfirm itineraries with their hosts and check on the latest status prior to making the trip to Singapore. Schools have also been strongly encouraged to cancel all extracurricular and inter-school events and all organisers have been encouraged to cancel large-scale events.

Employees at all workplaces are advised to record their temperature at least twice daily. Employers have been advised to strengthen their business continuity plans, including allowing employees to work from home. Stricter control measures, such as restricting the number of visitors, can also be expected to be imposed at healthcare facilities and schools.

 

South Korea

On 21 February, South Korea designated two cities, Cheongdo and Daegu, as ‘Special Care Zones’ or ‘Special Management Zones’. The measure does not restrict movement nor supersede local officials’ power, but serves as an official recognition of the COVID-19 outbreak. They are primarily looking for people who may be infected and preparing to provide necessary assistance such as sickbeds, personnel and equipment to affected zones. Temporary isolation facilities may also be established.

The South Korean authorities on 23 February increased the alert level to Red Alert (highest on a four-tier system). At this level, the authorities can ban large public gatherings and request the restriction of domestic and international travel, as well as the suspension of public transport services. All schools in the country have been suspended until 9 March. While several domestic airlines have either suspended or reduced their operations until at least 9 March, some others have cancelled flights until 28 March.

 

Thailand

The authorities can be expected to impose stringent health screening measures in all ports of entry, including airports and seaports. Travellers arriving from China (including Hong Kong and Macao), Japan, Singapore and South Korea will be screened extensively – the authorities have stated that travellers from Japan and Singapore who develop a fever or respiratory symptoms within 14 days of entering the country will be ‘treated like travellers from China’. The authorities have also stepped up screening measures among tourism workers and in shopping malls.

The Department of Disease Control has recommended that students and staff of educational institutions who have returned from areas with reported outbreaks should quarantine themselves at home for 14 days before returning to the education institution.

The authorities have not implemented any further in-country restrictions thus far; however, such measures may be imposed at short notice in the coming weeks. Increased restrictions are possible for travellers upon return to their country of origin, including entry restrictions and mandatory quarantine.

 

Flight operations

Many major airlines in various countries have announced that they will suspend or run a limited service on routes to mainland China, including Beijing and Shanghai, and Hong Kong. The dates of cancellations/suspensions vary. Some airlines have cancelled flights to and from Seoul (South Korea) and destinations in Japan.

Many airlines on 23 February suspended inbound and outbound flights to Iran. Outbound flight options are currently limited.

Members should contact the relevant airline for up-to-date information on flight schedules. Further short-notice flight cancellations or adjustments to schedules can be expected in the coming days.

 

Screening measures

Countries are continuing to implement additional health screening measures at transport hubs, including airports, sea ports and border crossings, to contain the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak. While stringent restrictions apply primarily to passengers arriving from mainland China, many countries are expanding these measures to more travellers especially those from countries most-affected by COVID-19, especially mainland China, Hong Kong (SAR), Italy, Japan, Macao (SAR), Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan (China) and Thailand.

Most countries have introduced health screening measures at airports and/or other entry points to contain the outbreak. These include temperature checks prior to boarding planes and upon landing, stringent questions about itineraries, and medical declarations. Members should allow additional time to complete check-in formalities.

 

Entry restrictions and quarantine measures

Many governments have also issued travel advisories for countries with confirmed COVID-19 cases. In countries in the Pacific, restrictions may be more stringent due to ongoing efforts to contain a measles outbreak. There is a potential that those travelling to COVID-19 affected countries will face entry bans or mandatory quarantine upon their return to the original location.

Travellers should confirm the status of entry restrictions and feasibility of their journeys prior to travel, particularly if they have been to one of the most affected countries.

Australia

Foreign travellers will be denied entry if they have travelled from or transited through mainland China in the 14 days prior to arrival. From 22 February, year 11 and 12 secondary-school students from mainland China, excluding Hubei, as well as foreign students with travel history to mainland China, can apply for an exemption to the travel restrictions. Excepted from the restrictions are citizens, permanent residents and immediate family of an Australian citizen or permanent resident; upon arrival they will be subject to home quarantine for 14 days. International students who have left mainland China and spent 14 days in a third country before arriving in Australia will be allowed into the country after their 14-day period has elapsed.

 

China

Hong Kong (SAR)

Travellers who meet one or more of the following criteria are not permitted to enter Hong Kong:

  • Travelling on a PRC passport or China ID card that lists Hubei province as the place of issue.

  • Visited Hubei province in the previous 14 days.

  • Anyone who has visited mainland China within the previous 14 days and whose entry permit for Hong Kong (e.g. visa or other type of permit) is less than 14 days in duration.

Exemptions: Travellers transiting through Hong Kong and travellers holding a Hong Kong ID card are permitted to enter. All those entering Hong Kong from mainland China, including Hong Kong and mainland residents, are subject to mandatory quarantine for 14 days upon their arrival. Those entering Hong Kong from other locations will still be subject to mandatory quarantine if they have visited mainland China in the previous 14 days.

Taiwan (China)

Travellers travelling on a passport or document issued by the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong SAR or Macao SAR will not be permitted to enter Taiwan. Foreigners who have entered or stayed in mainland China, Hong Kong SAR and Macao SAR in the previous 14 days will be refused entry. Any traveller (other than those listed above) who transits through mainland China, Hong Kong SAR or Macao SAR will be allowed to enter Taiwan. However, they will be required to undergo a 14-day compulsory quarantine immediately upon arrival. Taiwanese residents and their family, Hong Kong SAR and Macao SAR passport holders with an Exit/Entry Permit issued AFTER 11 February 2020 AND with a travel purpose of transnational business, as well as travellers with Taiwanese resident certificates, are exempt.

 

India

All existing visas, including e-visas, issued before 5 February in mainland China for Chinese passport holders (excluding Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan) and other nationals are no longer valid. Foreign nationals who travelled to China on and after 15 January will not be allowed to enter the country from any air, land or seaport, excluding passengers transiting through Chinese airports or airline crew. These restrictions are also not applicable to Chinese nationals with diplomatic service passports or OCI cards, or Indian citizens and lawful residents. Passengers from China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam and will undergo additional screening. The issuance of e-visas has been suspended for Chinese nationals and other nationals currently in mainland China. However, these restrictions are not applicable to Chinese passport holders of Hong Kong (China SAR), Macao (China SAR) and Taiwan (China).

 

Schengen Region

Several Schengen countries including Czech Republic, Finland, Greece and Italy have closed their visa application centres in China until further notice. Travellers going into Germany who have been into affected areas will have to complete a form upon arrival.

 

United States of America

Foreign nationals (other than immediate family of US citizens, permanent residents, and flight crew) who have been in China within 14 days of their arrival will be denied entry into the United States. US citizens who have been in Hubei province within 14 days of their return will be subject to up to 14 days of mandatory quarantine. US citizens who have been in other areas of mainland China within 14 days of their return will undergo proactive entry health screening and up to 14 days of self-quarantine with health monitoring.