China slightly eases COVID test rules for travellers from U.K

COVID-19 pandemic in Hong Kong
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BEIJING (Reuters) - China removed on Thursday some COVID-19 test requirements for people flying in from Britain, part of changes to its draconian virus rules to better cope with a pandemic driven by the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Travellers from Britain will no longer need to take a PCR test seven days before flying, and a requirements for an antibody test has also been scrapped, China's embassy in Britain said in a statement.

However, travellers from Britain will still need to do two PCR tests within 48 hours of the departure of their flight to China, and a pre-flight rapid antigen test in some cases, the embassy said.

The changes follow a similar slight relaxation of COVID testing rules for people arriving in China from countries including the United States announced this week.

"Though a step in the right direction, we hope to see further relaxation in particular to reduce the length of quarantine requirements and also the resumption of direct flights between the UK and China which have been suspended since December 2020," said Tom Simpson, managing director in China at the China-Britain Business Council.

China's "dynamic COVID zero" policy, which aims to minimise the risk of infected travellers arriving from abroad, has resulted in many barriers to international travel, from restrictions on the issue and renewal of passports for Chinese citizens to tough quarantine requirements upon arrival.

The majority of international flights to and from mainland China have been cancelled for the past two years.

China's embassy in Brazil said it had removed from Thursday the requirement for an antibody test and shortened a pre-departure quarantine period for employees at Chinese institutions flying to China to 10 days from 21 days previously.

Many embassies still have various additional requirements for people going to China who have recovered from COVID or who came in close contact with an infected person, including weeks of pre-departure isolation.

(Reporting by Martin Quin Pollard and Roxanne Liu)