For the first time since 2020, there will be direct passenger flights between the UK and mainland China, the British Embassy in Beijing said on Wednesday.
When the Alpha COVID-19 strain was initially discovered in the South East of England in December 2020, China unilaterally banned direct flights from the UK. The variation was held responsible for an outbreak of illnesses and sparked a fresh round of strict travel restrictions.
China is only now beginning to relax its travel regulations, which are still the tightest in the world, while the rest of the world has practically eliminated all restrictions imposed during the pandemic. In an effort to lift the complete flight ban, the British government claimed it had been in “constant touch” with Beijing since late last year.
An agreement between the Civil Aviation Administration of China and the British Department for Transport led to the decision to resume direct passenger flights (CAAC).
Chinese carriers will be the only ones offering flights at first, according to the British Embassy, while “work is ongoing” to bring back British airline service to mainland China.
British Airways initially left mainland China in January 2020, but up until the embargo was put in place, it still ran a few flights to Shanghai. Due to stringent quarantine regulations, the airline eventually left Hong Kong last November and has no intentions to go back.
Chinese university students and anyone who wants to go to the UK for business or pleasure will applaud the Chinese government’s move to loosen travel restrictions.
On their return to China, Chinese residents must still undergo quarantine, while most foreigners are prohibited from entering.
Despite indications that its “Zero Covid” plan was being thwarted by the extremely contagious BA.5 strain, Beijing has persevered in its efforts. Lockdowns and widespread testing continue to be implemented in Chinese cities in an effort to identify and contain viral outbreaks.