Beijing, China—China on Sunday shortened its suspension period for inbound international flights carrying COVID-positive passengers, signaling that Beijing could soon ease its strict border controls.
Incoming flights carrying five positive COVID-19 cases, or four percent of the total passengers, will now face a reduced one-week suspension, the Civil Aviation Administration (CAAC) said in a statement.
Previously, if a plane brought in five infected passengers, all flights operated by the responsible airline along the same route were suspended for two weeks.
Flights logging an eight percent passengers positivity rate will be barred for two weeks, CAAC said.
The so-called circuit breaker mechanism has led to travel chaos, with flights into China being cancelled abruptly without the ability to rebook for weeks.
China is the only major economy still holding fast to a zero- COVID strategy with snap lockdowns and long quarantines.
The country’s borders have also remained largely closed since early 2020, halting international tourism.
Hundreds of thousands of Chinese students and workers abroad have been left stranded and complained about paying exorbitant prices to buy tickets back home, with the limited number of flights entering the country routinely suspended.
Meanwhile, China’s exports rose unexpectedly in July despite weakening global demand but imports remained low as lingering COVID controls kept consumers jittery, official data showed Sunday.
In July, exports rose 18 percent on-year, up from 17.9 percent the month before, according to customs data.
This was well above the 14.6-percent growth expected by economists polled by Bloomberg News.
Imports grew 2.3 percent, compared to a dismal one percent in June.
But it was below the four percent growth predicted by analysts, who had expected easing COVID-19 restrictions to boost domestic consumption.
China is the only major economy still holding fast to a zero-COVID strategy with snap lockdowns and long quarantines, battering business activity, and making consumers jittery.
The country’s overall trade surplus rose to $101.26 billion, from $97.9 billion in June.
China logged its slowest economic growth since the initial coronavirus outbreak last month, expanding just 0.4 percent in the second quarter with lockdowns and property market weakness pushing the government’s target further out of reach.
Analysts have said that it is unlikely the official target of around 5.5 percent economic growth this year can be attained, given that it will require a huge acceleration in the second half.