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China Eases Airline Restrictions, Implements New Points System for COVID-19 Control

After a tense rhetorical back-and-forth between Chinese and American officials, China will finally allow US airlines to fly to China, in addition to all other foreign airlines that had previously been restricted from flying into the country

Reuters reports. The change will be welcome news to many Chinese citizens who have been eagerly waiting to return from abroad. However, it has no effect on those foreign passport holders wanting to do the same.

The spat began after China placed heavy restrictions on international airlines, a move that the US claimed violated a bilateral agreement to allow one another’s carriers to operate, according to Bloomberg. And while China has gradually eased these restrictions, allowing limited flights from several other countries to enter the territory, they had not budged on the US airline ban. In response, on Wednesday the US followed through on its threat to ban Chinese airlines.

Within hours, China announced a solution: Beginning Jun 8, it would allow flights from US airlines to enter China but will implement a points system for all international airlines in order to place the burden of COVID-19 control on the airlines themselves. The move represents a major change in the policy set forth by China’s Civil Aviation Administration (CAAC), which had up until now restricted countries to a single route into China per week, a plan that had previously been expected to continue through October.  

The new system will instead allow all foreign airlines not currently flying into China to schedule a flight into one of 32 designated cities capable of handling international flights. The catch? If the airline allows five coronavirus infections to fly into China, their route(s) will be suspended for one week. That suspension extends to four weeks if the number of cases reaches ten.

Additionally, if an airline is able to keep a record of allowing zero infected cases into China for three consecutive weeks, it will be allowed to expand its routes into China.

As of yet, there is no word from the US on whether it will cancel the ban on Chinese airlines that was set to begin Jun 16, but having gotten its way, the ban is unlikely to continue.

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