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Optimization of COVID policy to boost resumption of aviation industry

By Luo Wangshu | | Updated: 2022-11-16 06:41
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A widebody A330-200 aircraft of China Eastern is set to take off from Shenzhen Baoan International Airport in Shenzhen, Guangdong province. [Photo by Liu Yi/For China Daily]

China's latest optimization of its dynamic zero-COVID protocols will aid the early resumption of its civil aviation industry, officials and experts said.

Aiming for more scientific, targeted and accurate virus containment, China rolled out 20 measures last week to upgrade epidemic control, and many of them are related to the hard-hit civil aviation industry.

The measures include cancellation of the "circuit breaker" policy — the suspension of air carriers' operations for two weeks when five or more passengers tested positive for the novel coronavirus upon landing in China, or four weeks if 10 or more passengers tested positive.

They also reduce COVID-19 quarantines for incoming travelers and close contacts from 10 to eight days, and inbound travelers will be asked to provide one negative result instead of two from nucleic acid testing conducted no more than 48 hours before boarding.

Although the policy reduced the spread of the virus, the possible cancellation of planned flights led to uncertainty in the rate of flights.

Shortly after the new measures were announced, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said he believed they will help improve cross-border tourism and travel, and ease the travel of global investors to China.

Zhao made the comment during a news conference shortly after the measures were announced.

Song Zhiyong, head of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, said at a recent news conference that the administration, in line with the national strategy, will promote the recovery of the international air passenger market, improve the capacity and competitiveness of international air cargo, and continue to enhance the influence of Chinese civil aviation in the international community.

Li Xiaojin, a professor of aviation economics at Civil Aviation University in Tianjin, said the revisions are good news for international flight passengers and cargo shippers.

In addition, they "can greatly improve the rate of international flights, reducing the airlines' cost from the uncertainty of operating those flights," he said.

An improved rate of flights will also increase the stability of airlines' income, enabling them to offer lower ticket fares and cargo prices to attract passengers and cargo owners, he said.

According to VariFlight, a China-based civil aviation data service provider, searches for international flight information have increased greatly since the new measures were adopted. Searches for some routes, such as inbound fights from Japan and the United Kingdom, have increased up to fourfold.

Qi Qi, an associate professor at Guangzhou Civil Aviation College, said that although available flight numbers and flight certainty are thus improved, the demand for international travel remains uncertain.

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