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CNY travel forecast: COVID tests, quarantine and 1.7 billion trips

Everything we know so far about travelling in and out of Shanghai for the Spring Festival

Photograph: yousef alfuhigi via Unsplash
‘Can we leave Shanghai for Chinese New Year?’ may seem like a million kuai question right now. As local cases crop up, constant-shifting (and sometimes confusing) restrictions about where we can and can't set foot in means domestic travel for the forthcoming Spring Festival is going to be less straightforward.

Bad news, it's still a bit touch-and-go at the moment. Good news, it’s not all unlikely, as long as you follow through the measures below. Here we've clustered everything we know so far about travelling in and out of Shanghai for CNY.

Do I need to get tested to travel?

As sporadic cases have sprung up in more cities, a negative nucleic acid test result within the last seven days has generally been advised for domestic travellers no matter where their destination is. While supposedly not mandatory for anyone travelling from (and to) low-risk areas at present, it is mandatory for those who plan to cross provincial borders to visit rural regions, as well as visitors from medium and high-risk areas, and certain frontline workers who deal with greater risk of exposure to the virus such as imported cold chain product handlers and quarantine facility staffers, according to an official statement from National Health Commission (NHC) last week.

Said measure, which is sure to complicate chunyun for what makes up a major bulk of the country's annual human migration, has triggered backlash online since announced by the NHC on Wednesday 20 January at a press conference, who originally stipulated that all travellers must have a negative test within the last seven days, regardless of their origin or destination. After stirring confusion, officials later clarified that the measure extends to those returning to rural areas as well as other frontline workers.

Do I have to quarantine on entry and arrival?

Generally, no if you're travelling from (and to) low-risk areas (hopefully most of us), and have avoided visiting a rural region from another province, according to NHC. For locals who wish to return to rural households, 14-day health monitoring is instituted, in addition to the aforementioned negative test result on arrival. However, regulations are subject to change for specific cities so we recommend checking back the rules for your destination before planning. To find out more about your city, scan the QR code below for a handy tool by Chinese map app AutoNavi (Chinese only):

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What about rules specific to Shanghai?

In response to new cases, stricter regulations have been introduced for visitors and returning residents. According to Shine, travel advice posts from The Shanghai Center for Health Promotion ask people from medium- and high-risk regions to postpone travel where possible. However, anyone arriving in Shanghai coming from or stopping by medium- and high-risk regions must notify communities or hotels within 12 hours after arrival and are required to take central quarantine for 14 days and have two nucleic acid tests. These measures will be enforced until March 31.

Furthermore, Shine reports residential communities are also increasing measures for the travel period, requiring negative active nucleic acid tests for all returning residents who travelled outside Shanghai during Chinese New Year.

Due to local cases, as of today (Monday 25 January), the residential area on Zhaotong Lu (the south section of Fuzhou Lu), Salvo Hotel on Guangdong Lu, Guixi residential area in Huangpu district and Linjiang Xincun residential area in Baoshan district are now listed as medium-risk areas.

How many health codes to scan?

A unified health code system with a universal QR code is supposed to be in place for the Spring Festival to facilitate interprovincial travel, according to a recent state media report. Hopefully, this will bring some ease for domestic holidaymakers with fewer scans to make and queues to be stuck in.

1.7 billion on the move

At last, it's said around 1.7 billion trips will be made during the annual chunyun, according to the Chinese Transport Ministry, which is set to start from Thursday 28 January to Monday 8 March. State media Xinhua reports that the estimation – which has fallen 40 percent compared to 2019 – is up by 10 percent from 2020 (still expect some level of movement of human that is).

Though as non-essential travel is discouraged, a lot of us will probably be rethinking packing bags any time soon.

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