China is significantly easing one of the final pandemic-era hurdles to international travel by dropping a requirement for travellers to obtain a negative PCR test within 48 hours of getting on a plane to the country.
But although travellers will no longer need to go searching for a PCR or nucleic acid test, China still expects travellers to self-test using a rapid antigen home test kit within the same timeframe – although no one will be checking.
China has been forced to change its test requirements after testing services around the world were dismantled. It has become increasingly difficult to access pre-travel test services, especially if you’re trying to get hold of a sensitive PCR test.
Pre-travel Covid tests just aren’t a thing anymore, and the companies that seemingly sprung up overnight to cater to the demand have disappeared just as quickly.
In reality, the Chinese government is simply acknowledging the fact that passengers are struggling to get tested for Covid because the service providers no longer exist or have diverged into other markets (like general health testing).
Of course, China could have simply have dropped the pre-travel test requirement altogether, but, for whatever reason, that’s not happening just yet. Instead, passengers are being asked to take a home self-test within 48 hours of travel.
The problem with this requirement is that a home self-test kit doesn’t come with a certificate to prove the traveller is Covid negative, so airlines won’t be expected to verify that passengers have bothered to take a test. Which raises the simple question: What’s the point?
The same test rules are already used for travellers to Hong Kong after local officials realised that passengers were struggling to get hold of tests.
China started to lift its draconian pandemic-era travel restrictions in November 2022 as the country struggled to contain a mass virus outbreak that brought it’s Zero Covid’ strategy to an abrupt end.
Quarantine rules were lifted in January, at the same time that the PCR test rules were introduced. The new self-test rule will comes into force from April 29.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.