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Vietnamese in China rejoice in end of ‘zero-Covid’ policy


Vietnamese in China are looking forward to resuming regular travel to and from home after China’s full reopening last week.

Nguyen Thi Thu Ha, a 37-year-old Vietnamese researcher from Tsinghua University working at China’s Institute for Economic and Social Research (IESR), said she was stoked at the end of nearly three years of zero-Covid policies.

She had been living in Beijing for over a decade before the pandemic struck and she frequently visited Vietnam and China for both personal and professional reasons.

However, that was halted in 2020 due to China’s “Zero-Covid” policy, which resulted in the closure of the country’s borders for almost three years.

Thu Ha at a beverage shop inside a mall in Beijing, China, on January 9, 2023. Photo courtesy of Ha

Thu Ha at a beverage shop inside a mall in Beijing, China, on January 9, 2023. Photo courtesy of Ha

She was ecstatic when China announced that as of December 7, 2022, Covid-19 restrictions would be loosened, signaling that people’s social lives could soon get back to normal.

Since January 8, all people entering China now only need to produce a negative PCR test result to avoid quarantine. This is also the first time since lockdown that people arriving in China will be able to go straight home instead of having to quarantine for a period of time.

China is also issuing passports to citizens again, as well as regular visas and residence permits to people from other countries.

“Even though it was announced a month ago, I still can’t hide my happiness on opening day,” Ha said on January 8.

Doan Thi Quynh, a 37-year-old living in Beijing with her Chinese husband and 5-year-old son, is in the same mood as Thu Ha.

“Everyone is happy that China is reopening. Travel is easier now that there are fewer restrictions. Streets and malls are now full of people venturing out again, just like before the pandemic,” Quynh said.

Nguyen Phuong Giang, a 36-year-old living in Nanning City with her Chinese husband and 4-year-old son, said that in early December when China started to relax restrictions, many people were scared and afraid that Covid would spread rapidly.

“It’s good to see that things are returning to normal,” Giang said. “After three years of lockdown, many people are tired and everyone just wants the pandemic to end fast so the economy can get back on track.”

Nguyen Phuong Giang and her husband during a trip to Guilin City, Chinas Guangxi Province, on January 7, 2023. Photo courtesy of Giang

Nguyen Phuong Giang and her husband during a trip to Guilin City, China’s Guangxi Province, on January 7, 2023. Photo courtesy of Giang

Ups & Downs

On January 9, officials in Central China’s Henan Province said that 89% of the province’s population, or about 88.5 million people, had Covid.

But Henan authorities soon decided that the province had successfully passed the peak of the outbreak, and studies said the number of new infections was expected to stay low through the end of the month.

The Chinese government thinks that the transportation industry will handle nearly 2.1 billion trips during its Lunar New Year holiday this year. This is up 99.5% from the same time last year and up 70.3% from 2019, before the Covid-19 outbreak.

Ha said that after almost a month of loosening restrictions, some Chinese provinces and cities are almost at the point where 90% of the population is infected with the virus. This means that people are less afraid and have started “throwing themselves out of their homes.”

Local media has reported that during the Lunar New Year, all the luxury hotels on Hainan Island are full. A man who owns 15 long-term rental villas in Sanya Bay said that the money he’s made in a month was enough to make up for what he lost during the three years of the pandemic.

“China’s domestic tourism is on the rise,” Ha said. “People from Beijing are going to Hainan Island to avoid the cold.”

But she thinks that Chinese tourism abroad won’t improve anytime soon because many countries now require people from China to show a negative Covid-19 test upon entry.

She says that the request is “quite inconvenient” because people will have to wait in line for tests at hospitals that are already too busy.

‘Counting the days’

Doan Thi Quynh in front of the Vietnamese embassy in Beijing, China, on January 9, 2023. Photo courtesy of Quynh

Doan Thi Quynh in front of the Vietnamese embassy in Beijing, China, on January 9, 2023. Photo courtesy of Quynh

Quynh in Beijing said she is “counting every day” until she can visit friends in Nanning City and then go back to Vietnam through the Lang Son land border gate and celebrate the traditional Vietnamese Tet Lunar New Year back home. Tet falls in late this month.

She works in the tourism industry, which was hit hard during the three years of lockdown.

Nanning, the capital of Guangxi province, is more than 400 km from Lang Son.

According to state media Xinhua, Guangxi officials said on January 9 that they will gradually reopen direct international road routes between China and Vietnam.

Trip.com, a major international travel service, said that the number of online visa application searches in China has gone up by 300%. When the government lifted restrictions on foreign travel in December, bookings for domestic flights went up by more than 250% in one day.

“My Chinese friends are very happy that they can now travel normally and go to Vietnam,” Quynh said.

“I’m planning to bring Chinese tourists to Vietnam after the Tet Lunar New Year. I hope everything is well and work will pick up steam in the new year.”

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