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Personal experience report: Travel between China and Germany in times of pandemic

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published on 14 September 2021 | reading time approx. 7 minutes

This article is a personal experience report written by our colleague Christina Gigler, LL.M., Head of Legal Beijing, who reports on her very own experiences and insights during her trip under pandemic conditions from China to Germany and back. All further information on current travel restrictions can be found on our website as well as on the official website of the German Federal Foreign Office and the German Chamber of Commerce China.

 

     

First, a brief explanation:

I flew from Beijing to Frankfurt on a scheduled flight on 17 July 2021 and back to China from Frankfurt to Qingdao (Shandong Province, East China) on 27 August 2021 on a charter flight operated by the AHK (German Chamber of Commerce China).  Since my return flight to China was not a scheduled flight, it is quite possible that my experiences and the entry conditions that applied in my case differ from those of scheduled flights.

 

Furthermore, it should be noted that I have a valid residence permit for China. This means that I did not have to apply for a so-called "PU Letter" to be allowed to re-enter China. The residence permit remains valid even if you leave the country. If you do not have a valid residence permit for China, you have to apply for a visa to enter China, which is rather difficult to receive at the moment. 

 

It should also be noted that travel conditions and restrictions are in a state of constant change and may vary from city to city or province to province.

 

 

Departure  from China to Germany

My departure from China was relatively uncomplicated. The most important thing is a negative PCR test result. At the time of my departure, the following applied: All passengers traveling to Germany by plane have to present a negative test result (e.g., PCR, PoC-PCR) to their carrier prior to departure. This obligation to provide a valid test result applies regardless of whether the passenger is boarding from a risk area or not. The testing should not be conducted earlier than 72 hours before entering Germany. Presenting a vaccination or recovery certificate can replace the negative test result.

 

I had to show the negative test result both at the check-in at the airport in Beijing and when entering Germany at the airport in Frankfurt. I would generally recommend having the negative test result available both in printed form and in electronic form on your mobile phone. It also simplifies the procedure if the test result is in both Chinese and English. It is therefore advisable to take the PCR test in an international hospital. The test result is usually available within 24 hours.

 

Entry from Germany to China

The entry from Germany to China was more complicated. For me, I had to present a total of three tests before entry, a negative PCR test between 72 and 36 hours before departure, a second negative PCR test and an IgM antibody test within 36 hours before departure, whereby the first PRC test and the other two tests had to be done at different testing institutions. What was new was that the test  could not simply be done at  at Frankfurt Airport, but that the tests had to be taken in the consular district where you declared your place of residence in Germany.

 

The test results had to meet certain requirements, namely the following information should be indicated on the test result: Name of the person tested, name and address of the testing facility, date of receipt, type and time of sampling, test method (for the PCR test, either throat or nasal swab, the TMA test method is not accepted; for the antibody test, only venous blood sampling is accepted, no pricking of the finger), IgM antibody test must contain the amount of IgM antibodies.

 

I myself did the second PCR test and the antibody test at Munich airport, as the test centre there specialises in issuing test results according to China's requirements. Even though the costs at the airport were the highest compared to other test centres, I would strictly recommend everyone to have at least the antibody test done at an airport, because you get the result within a few hours or almost immediately and the airport test centres generally meet the strict requirements for the test results.

 

The test results are mandatory in order to obtain a "Health Declaration Certificate" (green QR code). All test reports must be uploaded to the website https://hrhk.cs.mfa.gov.cn/H5/  together with other documents in order to obtain the green QR code from the relevant Chinese Consulate General or the Chinese Embassy in Germany. If the antibody test does not only contain an IgM test but also includes an IgG test, it is recommended to upload this IgG result as well, as only complete test reports are accepted. If the IgM result is positive, this will lead to the rejection of the green QR code and you are not allowed to enter China. If the IgG result is positive and you are not fully vaccinated or recovered, this may lead to rejection of the green QR code. It is advised to upload all documents together, as uploading them separately may lead to rejection of the green QR code. Please note that documents can only be uploaded in the form of photos (jpg documents). PDF documents must therefore first be changed to jpg formats before uploading.

 

It is strictly recommended to take a screenshot of the green QR code after receiving it in order to be able to show it at any time. At check-in, you will be asked to log into the website again and show the green QR code in real time; the green QR code is considered a prerequisite for being able to check in. Online check-in is generally not possible.

 

After check-in and before boarding or during the flight, a health declaration must be filled out on the website of the Chinese customs. This is relatively simple and self-explanatory. After successful completion, you will receive a QR code from customs, which you should also save as a screenshot. During the flight, further forms have to be filled out, which you receive from the airport staff (e.g. consent form for further PCR tests, etc.) and the temperature of the passengers is taken.

 

The rest of the procedure after arrival in China is very coordinated and planned. Disembarkation from the aircraft was only allowed in stages for 10-12 people at a time. You then follow a specially marked path and pass through various stations. First, the temperature is taken, then two PCR tests are performed (throat and nasal swab) and you are asked to show the completed forms, previous test results, QR codes, boarding pass, passport, etc. In general, it is recommended to have each document available both in printed form (the original) and on your mobile phone.

 

After collecting your luggage from the baggage carousel, you follow a marked path again. Finally, you will be taken directly by bus from the airport to the quarantine hotel. Both the hotel and the room are assigned centrally and cannot be selected.

 

The quarantine hotel of the charter flight is comparatively good. The rooms are large, the food is plentiful and tasty and each room has its own balcony. However, this is by far not a matter of course. The quarantine hotels after scheduled flights are chosen relatively randomly and can vary greatly in quality and facilities.

 

The room door is not locked during quarantine, but it is strictly forbidden to leave the room. You are only allowed to open the door when receiving food or when a test is being carried out.

 

During quarantine, a total of 15 more tests were conducted (for travellers to Beijing and Tianjin), namely 14 PCR tests and one antibody serum test. For travellers to other destinations, fewer tests were required. You had to take your temperature twice a day and report it to the hotel using a QR code in a WeChat group. In my case, I was allowed to  take the temperature myself and did not have to take a photo of the thermometer. Just reporting the temperature was sufficient.

 

It was even possible to order food from a separate hotel menu in addition to the three meals per day. However, this is most likely not possible outside of charter flights. We were also allowed to place orders with supermarkets or other online suppliers. So you could have packaged food or other goods delivered; fresh fruits and vegetables or alcohol, among other things, were excluded from delivery.

 

For travellers with final destination Beijing, the quarantine was extended from two to three weeks a few weeks earlier. Travellers to Changchun (Jilin Province in the northeast of the country) were even obliged to quarantine for four weeks. Travellers to other destinations were mostly required to spend two weeks in quarantine in Qingdao.

 

After the end of the quarantine, you will be driven to the airport or train station (taxi or public transport is not allowed) to travel to your destination in China on the same day. Upon check-out at the hotel, travellers will receive not only the fapiao (invoice receipt) for the hotel costs, but also a "quarantine certificate" issued by the authorities in Qingdao as well as the result of the last PCR test and an overview of all PCR tests during the quarantine period. A longer stay in Qingdao or in other cities was not allowed. Even at the airport and railway station, there is again a specially marked path that you are not allowed to leave.

 

In most cases, even at the destination, you are still subject to a certain period of self-quarantine at home or health monitoring. The exact requirements have to be clarified with your responsible neighbourhood committee.

 

Tips and advice

General

  • The preparation time, especially for entering China, should not be underestimated. For example, I would recommend taking the PCR test and the antibody test a few weeks in advance to check what the test results look like and whether they meet the Chinese requirements in terms of content. In addition, you should know yourself whether you have antibodies and if so, which ones, in order to be able to prepare the relevant documents and to have enough time available for this.
  • I would also recommend making appointments for the tests in good time so that the test is carried out within the prescribed period.
  • Generally speaking, you cannot choose your quarantine hotel. You also cannot choose a price category. Therefore, you should be prepared to have a rather small room (with or without a window; with or without a refrigerator; with or without air conditioning, with or without the possibility of using a delivery service).
  • The entire stay in the quarantine hotel usually has to be paid in advance at check-in at the reception of the hotel. You should thus ensure that there is enough money on your Chinese bank account, credit card or WeChat or Alipay account. The costs for the quarantine hotel can vary greatly, from RMB 300 - 1000 per day.
  • Before entering China, it is advisable (if you do not already have it) to install the WeChat app on your mobile phone and familiarise yourself with how to use it, as, among other things, all communication with the hotel is via WeChat and you have to enter your temperature daily via WeChat using a QR code.
  • It is recommended that you or your company inform your neighbourhood committee in China about your return to China. Different districts may have different approaches for the follow-up period after the mandatory central quarantine. Additional self-quarantine or health monitoring may also be required (further information regarding the health monitoring can be found in the updates of August 11 and May 19).
  • In addition to the updates on our website, you can find more information on the current travel restrictions and regulations on the website of the German Chamber of Commerce (AHK China) as well as on the official website of the German Federal Foreign Office.

 

Entering Germany

  • Before entering Germany, you should make sure which current entry regulations apply and whether the country you are leaving is classified as a risk area in Germany or not.
  • This information can be found on the websites of the German Federal Foreign Office and the Federal Ministry of Health.

 

Recommended packing list for airport and quarantine

Face masks (FFP2 or medical mouth and nose protection masks), power bank, pens to fill out various forms, disinfectant, Chinese SIM card or other option for mobile data use in China, reusable bottle for water, towel (hotel towel may not be washed during quarantine), cleaning utensils (for surfaces, washing dishes, laundry), digital thermometer, skipping rope and/or yoga mat, salt and pepper, dried fruits, nuts, instant coffee or tea, medicines, cutlery, chopping board, books, podcasts, HDMI cable, speakers for listening to music, etc.

 

Vaccination

  • In general, vaccination does not make travelling easier at present. Vaccination is also not a prerequisite for entry or exit.
  • On the contrary, if you have been vaccinated, it even makes it more difficult to enter China, because if you have antibodies you have to submit additional documents (such as a vaccination certificate) and fulfil certain requirements. Even if you have antibodies, you can still enter China under certain conditions.
  • So far, Chinese vaccines have not yet been officially recognised in Germany. If you want to be vaccinated in Germany in addition to a Chinese vaccination, you should note the following:
  • Cross-vaccination with Johnson & Johnson (in addition to the Chinese vaccines Sinopharm or Sinovac) is not approved in Germany.

If you have already received a vaccination in China, for example, the Biontech vaccination  would count as a second vaccination in Germany and you would then only need one vaccination dose to be considered fully vaccinated in Germany. Nevertheless, both doses should be vaccinated, because if antibodies are present, the Chinese side requires that full vaccination protection can be proven. The Chinese embassy and consulates strongly recommend that the vaccination process (complete vaccination) is completed at least two weeks before departure.

 

All information given here is based on personal experience and represents a non-binding offer of information. It does not constitute legal, tax or business advice, nor can it replace individual consultation. Please keep in mind that the respective requirements for a trip to and from China can be individually very different. Please do not hesitate to contact us.

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