China is ending its last COVID-19 rule, which mandated travelers to report their health status at entry and exit points starting on Wednesday.
The relaxation of this rule signifies a return to regular travel arrangements between Hong Kong and mainland China, ending nearly four years of COVID-19 restrictions.
China’s General Administration of Customs has announced that travelers entering or leaving China will no longer be required to complete the Health Declaration Form, known as the “black code,” starting from Wednesday. This requirement had been in place since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020.
Chinese authorities are no longer mandating the Health Declaration Form, but they encourage travelers to voluntarily report to customs if they have been diagnosed with an infectious disease or are experiencing symptoms like fever, cough, difficulty breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash.
“Any behaviour of concealment or evasion that leads to the spread of quarantine-related infectious diseases or poses a serious risk of transmission would face criminal liabilities,” the General Administration of Customs of China’s statement read.
Pro-establishment lawmakers in Hong Kong have welcomed the relaxation of the COVID-19 travel requirement. Kingsley Wong, a pro-Beijing lawmaker and the chairperson of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, stated that travelers found the requirement to be inconvenient.
Wong mentioned that he had assisted elderly individuals who needed help filling out the online form to get the QR code. Additionally, there were cases of people who couldn’t generate the code at border checkpoints, leading to them either returning to Hong Kong or delaying their trips to the mainland.
Pro-Beijing lawmaker Starry Lee, who is a member of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, described the day the rule is dropped as a “landmark day.” She noted that this change would enhance convenience for travelers on both sides and foster deeper connection and cooperation between mainland China and Hong Kong.
China enforced stringent COVID-19 measures during the pandemic, including city-wide lockdowns, visa suspensions for foreigners, and lengthy quarantine for incoming travelers. Hong Kong also implemented strict rules, including gathering limits and mask mandates. However, in January, China ended quarantine requirements for incoming travelers after nearly three years of self-imposed isolation, despite ongoing COVID-19 cases.