COVID-19: What Foreigners in China Need to Know

While the COVID-19 cases in China are declining, other countries are struggling to contain the virus and prevent it from spreading. Thus, governments around the world have extended travel restrictions and put into place specific guidelines and control measures. Meanwhile, foreigners in China face a dilemma on whether to stay or leave the country. Regardless, many foreign students and workers are still participating in online classes or remote work to keep a normal life as much as possible.

Have a look at our article about Remote Work in the Time of Coronavirus

Foreigners who study or work in China need to keep abreast of the rules and regulations being implemented in China during the outbreak. Especially, foreign employees also need to know their employer’s responsibility in these times. If you are an expatriate in China, keep reading to learn more!

Foreigners in China during the COVID-19 outbreak

In early January-February during the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak, many foreigners in Wuhan called on their respective governments to evacuate them from the city where the coronavirus originated. These countries needed to go through negotiations and safety procedures with the Chinese government before the evacuation could take place. Evacuees also underwent screening tests before getting on board flights. Governments of these countries had to put up quarantine facilities after the arrival of their citizens.

COVID-19 infected foreigners

China’s State Council has announced in a press conference a total of 29 confirmed cases of foreigners infected with coronavirus in China. Of the confirmed cases, 18 people recovered, 2 died and 9 are still being treated. On the other hand, a total of 88 cases were confirmed from foreigners who recently came to China. These foreigners arrived in different cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong, Zhejiang, Gansu, and others.

Epidemic control and prevention policies

Foreigners who chose to stay in China or those who live in other cities except Wuhan have to pay attention to national protocol and preventive measures. Chinese authorities encouraged every community to implement their own regulations or to comply with the local government. For example, in Shanghai, foreigners who live in apartments need to obtain a “permit card” for them to enter their homes. At the same time, they cannot visit their friends in other communities unless they have permission. Furthermore, residents have been taking their deliveries at the front gates rather than at their doors. Community workers also help to make sure that residents get a temperature check and wear masks as they go out.

Many schools and universities in China have advised foreign students to not return to their university without further notice. As Wuhan, the epicenter of COVID-19 remains in lockdown, many foreign students continue to stay inside the dormitories, while their respective universities implement strict policies. Some foreign students who flew back to their home countries are awaiting futher news from their universities.

Mandatory quarantine on foreigners

With the recent news of imported COVID-19 cases, Chinese local governments decided to put individuals arriving in China under a 14-day quarantine period. These individuals include foreign visitors as well as foreigners who are coming back to China for work or study.  For instance, Shanghai and Beijing announced policies concerning the isolation of all international inbound travelers. These cities have imposed self-quarantine at home or at designated hotels for those who have business travels.

Recently, Shanghai also expanded its mandatory measures to require foreigners to undergo nucleic acid testing besides temperature checks, epidemiological investigation and verification of health declaration forms. However, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs later declared a temporary ban on the entry of foreign nationals with valid Chinese visa and resident permits. It also includes short entry visas such as port visas and those covering visa-free policies.

While the number of cases in China has decreased immensely, China now faces coronavirus as an external threat. Police authorities are making calls to check with expatriates who recently traveled to another country, especially where it is badly hit by COVID-19. Experts also advise the government to tighten control over imported cases. According to renowned Chinese medical expert Zhong Nanshan, there is a possibility that the COVID-19 outbreak could end in June. He also noted that other countries should not let their guard down and follow the World Health Organization’s instructions on containing the virus.

What foreigners can expect from their employers

Many foreigners working in China also feel the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of them who have gone back to their countries may have difficulty returning due to the travel bans. However, this won’t stop them from making a living and negotiating with their employers.

If you are an expatriate working in China, you may find it useful to check our COVID-19 guide on what kind of protection and legal obligations your employers ought to fulfill.

New immigration rules and regulations

China’s Exit and Entry Bureau announced the postponement of foreign visas during the coronavirus epidemic control. According to the press release, foreigners can automatically extend their visa for 2 months without going through immigration procedures. The immigration will also allow them to stay in China or leave the country as usual.

Moreover, the National Immigration Administration released ten related measures for COVID-19 epidemic control and prevention. One of them includes a 24-hour visa application for foreign personnel involved in COVID-19 related works. The NIA will also give priority to providing fast-track access to import and export commodities.

Meanwhile, the Beijing government has announced the inclusion of foreign nationals in the Community Health Management Board. This is to strengthen the epidemic awareness of foreigners living in China. Furthermore, Beijing’s Foreign Affairs Office has established media report channels and service hotlines in eight different languages. These include English, French, Russian, German, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, and Arabic.

WHO declares COVID-19 as a pandemic

On March 11, 2020, the World  Health Organization announced in a media briefing that COVID-19 is now a global pandemic. As of March 17, the WHO cited more than 118,000 cases in 114 countries and 4,291 deaths due to COVID-19. According to the current data, more than ninety percent of cases come from four countries from which China and Korea have already reported declining cases.

The WHO has advised all countries to be prepared and find the balance between protecting public health and minimizing economic and social disruption as well as respecting human rights.If you want to know more about doing business in China during the coronavirus outbreak, contact our team for consultation and assistance. Follow us on social media to get the latest news!

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