China on Sunday dropped the mandatory quarantine requirement for those coming to the country, Reuters reported.

The development marks a major step for China as it had largely closed its border since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. Until today, those arriving in the country were required to quarantine for five days at a government-supervised facility, after which they had to isolate themselves for three days at home.

The ease in quarantine requirements came as China abandoned its strict “zero-Covid” policy in December following unprecedented anti-lockdown protests. However, this led to a sharp increase in Covid-19 cases in China with hospitals and morgues in the country being overwhelmed.

Several countries such as India, the United States, Spain, France, South Korea, Italy, Japan and Taiwan announced they will require negative tests from passengers arriving from China. In response, Beijing had said that the travel curbs were “unacceptable”.

Passengers in the arrival area for international flights at the Shanghai Pudong International Airport on Sunday. (Image credit: AFP)

On Sunday, long queues were seen at Hong Kong’s international airport for flights to Beijing, Tianjin and Xiamen, reported Reuters.

“I’ve been looking forward to the reopening for a long time,” a passenger from Hong Kong told the news agency. “Finally we are reconnected with the world.”

The Chinese government said that millions are expected to travel in the first 40-day period of the Lunar New Year during which many return to their hometowns.

The government also added that it has resumed issuing passports and travel visas for its residents, and ordinary visas and residence permits for foreigners.