FOREIGN RELATIONS. Philippine Ambassador to China Jaime FlorCruz gives updates on Philippines-China relations during the Saturday News Forum at Dapo Restaurant in South Triangle, Quezon City on Saturday (Jan. 7, 2023. He said talks are ongoing to resume direct flights to Guangzhou, Xiamen and Beijing. (PNA photo by Robert Oswald Alfiler)

MANILA – Talks for the resumption of direct flights between China and the Philippines are taking place, but airlines remain careful while considering the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

Among the targeted routes are Guangzhou, Xiamen, Beijing, according to Philippine Ambassador to China Jaime FlorCruz during the Saturday News Forum at Dapo Restaurant in South Triangle, Quezon City.

"[M]ayroon nang pag-uusap ang mga airline natin sa kanilang counterparts to resume direct flights, siguro gradual (Our airlines do have discussions with their counterparts to resume flights, but maybe gradual)," FlorCruz said. "Dahan-dahan po (ito). Maingat din ang ating mga airline (This would be done slowly because our airlines are being careful)."

In the same forum, FlorCruz said China is expected to lift its control for outbound and inbound travel starting Jan. 8.

"Halimbawa 'yung 48 hours for PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test. Iyong outbound, ang alam ko magbubukas na, ili-lift na 'yung restriction halimbawa papuntang Hong Kong at eventually sa ibang bansa (For inbound, they will lift the 48-hour PCR requirement. From what I know, they would also open gates for outbound, for example those going to Hong Kong and eventually to other countries)," he said.

According to a Xinhua news agency report in December, inbound travelers no longer need to apply for a health code from Chinese diplomatic and consular missions starting Sunday. They will declare their health status on the customs card.

Those with abnormal health status declaration or fever symptoms will receive an antigen test at customs and self-isolate until recovery or be treated in a hospital, depending on the conditions.

Airlines will continue to carry out disinfection on board and passengers are required to wear masks when flying, according to Xinhua.

On the other hand, some countries like Australia, Canada, India, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States have re-imposed restrictions on travelers from China, such as requiring a Covid-19 test before boarding.

Prior to the pandemic, China was the Philippines' second top market for tourists, making up 1.74 million of the total 8.26 million international arrivals in 2019.

Currently, China is experiencing a surge in Covid-19 cases, driven by the spread of Omicron variants.

Based on analysis presented by Chinese experts to the World Health Organization, the BA.5.2 and. BF.7 Omicron sublineages account for 97.5 percent of all local infections in China. (PNA)