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How to Return to China AND Survive Quarantine

Teach in China - How to Return to China AND Survive Quarantine in 2020

Since the borders closed on March 28th, China has opened and closed its borders a couple of times. While there has been some indecision, centralised quarantine in China remains a constant. 

Teachers keen to head back to their classrooms will no-doubt want to know how they can return to China. And how they can survive centralised quarantine.

It’s important to note that 14-day centralised quarantine isn’t an absolute given. Some provinces have different rules and different durations for their quarantine. 

The situation is constantly changing. A localized outbreak in Beijing around New Years 2020/21 led to a further 7 day isolation period in Beijing. This is an addition to the 14 quarantine in another city.

In a few cities, those who enter the country and test negative for COVID can quarantine at home for 7 days of their 14-day quarantine. Generally this for those who have a fixed abode and meet the requirements. So far, this has been an available option in Shanghai and the neighbouring provinces of Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Anhui. If you live in these areas, it doesn’t mean EVERYONE will have the option to quarantine at home. Any fresh outbreaks of the virus locally may affect this. 

Requirements to enter China in the Pandemic

The requirements to enter China during the pandemic are no different from before but with some very key exceptions.
  • Be between 18 and 55 years of age
  • Bachelor Degree, TEFL qualifications and Clear Criminal Background Check, authenticated and notarised
  • Job invitation letter (supplied by your prospective employer)
  • China Work Permit Notice
  • A negative COVID Nucleic Acid Test (NAT) and a COVID-19 IgG antibody testing*
  • PU LetterThe PU letter is an invitation letter issued specifically during the pandemic. It is issued by the relevant Foreign Affairs Office in China.  (How to get a PU letter?)

In the last 6+ months, the number of foreigners entering China has been reduced to a trickle. Luckily, we’ve partnered up with a reputable agency that’s providing PU Letters and Visas. Check it out here!

It’s also important to note that the requirements for being considered COVID free have changed. The new regulations mean that within 48 hours (2 days) prior to taking a flight to China, you’ll need to have passed a COVID Nucleic Acid Test (NAT) and a COVID-19 IgG antibody testing *

Who can return to China?

As recently as September, China opened its borders, operating direct flights from 30 countries. However, with the introduction of imported cases to China, China has temporarily suspended issuing of visa and travel from many countries. Some people can still enter, but with great difficulty.

The most notable country mentioned in the UK. Recent lockdown measures have indicated the UK as being high risk. It’s presumed this is a temporary measure. It doesn’t mean UK citizens cannot enter China. It means the visa centres and consulates have suspended issuing visas and allowing UK citizens to on leave flights from UK airports bound for China. 

In some cases, UK citizens can still get visas from Chinese Embassies and consulates in other countries and enter China through a third country. As of late, more Chinese consulates embassies are asking for proof of residence if outside your home country.

The ban also extends to any non-Chinese citizen who wishes to travel from the UK to China. 

Returning to China with Expired Resident or Work permit

If you have an expired resident or work permit (expired after March 28th 2020), the odds are in your favour. Getting the infamous PU letter and subsequent visa to Enter China are increased dramatically. 

While the relevant authorities are reluctant to provide PU letters to new teachers, they are much more sympathetic to teachers who have worked here before the pandemic.  Contact Us for job opportunities with schools who can provide a PU letter and get you on a plane to China… Yet, take note, this situation is constantly changing.

Returning to China on a Business Visa 2021

Some teachers are returning on Business (M) visas and then attempting to move to a Z visa when they get to China. Getting a business visa involves getting an invitation letter and PU issued by a relevant entity or individual in China and a PU letter. Getting a PU letter and being successful depends on the industry type and location.

For many, this has been a viable option to return, but it seems these letters are coming harder and harder to come by. China is generally only considering those candidates who are high flying executives of multinationals and those considered of some importance to the Chinese economy.

Had you secured a Z Visa and a teaching job position before COVID restrictions were introduced? Some entry exceptions are being made for those with valid work visas so contact us for more details. We may just be able to help you get to China!

Returning to China with Family / Dependents 2021

Unfortunately, China has not viewed the return of family members (without working visas) as an importance to the economy. When the borders opened back up initially in August 2020, there were no problems with families returning together.  It has been documented that the authorities are not sympathetic to families who have a family member inside China who are being separated from their dependents outside. We hope this will change soon.

How Can You Return to China?

Holders of valid or expired residency permits can apply for a special one-time visa at their local Chinese consulate or embassy. Once you have this visa, you can start planning your return. 

Planning will include including booking your flight, taking a COVID-tests and preparing for quarantine on arrival.

All the while following instructions from your local embassy and/or prefecture.

For more in-depth details on the procedure, see our How to Return to China and Survive Quarantine blog. or 

How to Survive Quarantine in China in 2020

There are variations of the 14-days quarantine rule in China. However it’s safe to assume you will be required to do 14 days. This quarantine duration is unlikely to change any time soon.

There is nothing to worry about here. Centralised quarantine is done in a designated facility which has been set up specifically to deal with this 2020-predicament. For the most part, ‘facilities’ translates into 3 & 4-star hotels. If you are unlucky, this can mean being placed in less desirable facilities . 

Some arrivals have spent their quarantine in juvenile correction facilities and even a soon to be demolished hotel. Don’t worry, these are the exception rather than the norm. Most hotels are mid standard Chinese Hotels. Picking the arrival city in can make all the difference to the standard of your quarantine hotel. 

More astute travellers choose to arrive in Xiamen. It’s a island city in the south of China popular with Chinese and International tourists. Xiamen is full of top quality hotels, where you can enjoy your quarantine in some degree of luxury. If you are looking for a cheaper option you may pick a city less well known for tourism. There you can pay significantly less, albeit in limited comfort. 

 You’ve no-doubt heard about this form of ‘communal isolation’? So far it has proven to be safe and effective from preventing the spread of COVID. And has been adopted in many places aside from China, including Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand.

Rather than test you for COVID and send you home to potentially infect everyone you meet. Centralised isolation ensures you have contact with no-one. Yes, it sounds harsh, but it doesn’t need to be.

Not if you’re prepared!

A Few Things to Know About Quarantine in China

  • As is the case the world over, quarantine for COVID in China lasts for 14 days
  • You will be tested for COVID upon arrival in China at the airport. The test will be in the form of COVID Nucleic Acid Test (NAT) and a COVID-19 IgG antibody testing (blood test). If you don’t show any symptoms or results are negative, your quarantine will continue as normal. They may only tell your if you test positive for COVID. 
  • .You will probably be tested again the day after you arrive at the hotel and potentially at the one-week mark as well. These tests will  be nose swabs, throat swabs and blood tests.
  • By and large, if you can catch a direct flight straight into your city of residency, you may have a shot at requesting 7 days in a facility and 7 days at home.

Your chances of being granted 7 days home quarantine option are higher if you already have an established place of residence (ie. not if you do not have a home to go to yet). Make sure you gave a copy of your Chinese lease agreement as the authorities will undoubtedly ask for it as proof of established residence

  • If you’re travelling with a partner or family (ie. spouse and children) you may or may not be allowed to share a room. Usually, children under the age of 14 can stay with one parent. Couples may be split up, but your best chances to quarantine together is if you are married.  
  • Have very young children? It’s certainly worth asking if your and your partner can stay together, with the child/children, in the same room.  A tip here would be to offer to pay for two rooms if you can indeed share with your spouse or family. 


The Quarantine Hotels – What to expect

  • Centralised quarantine hotels in China’s largest cities can be quite nice although rooms are oftentimes rather small. Teachers returning to China have reported the staff being very friendly and amenities being nicer than expected. You probably don’t want to get your hopes up for a 5* swanky hotel-vacay. But it is nice to know that authorities are taking good care of returning foreigners
  • Hotel staff may not be fluent in English. The good news is that hotel reception will communicate with you via WeChat. WeChat is essential APP in this situation. 
  • Hotel rooms will NOT be serviced during your quarantine. As a result, you’ll need to let reception know when you need something changed/replenished. In most cases, hotel staff will only replenish the absolute necessities like toilet roll. 
  • There may or may not be a fridge, so plan on not having one
  • The total cost of centralised quarantine in China has varied between RMB 4,200 and RMB 7,000 per person

Now that we have the basics out of the way, let’s delve deeper into the important issues of quarantining in China.

The Food

The most talked-about subject in COVID times, aside from COVID itself, has been about food – in centralised quarantine in China, the topic has been a hotly-contested one.

Food is provided by the Chinese Government to guests in quarantine hotels, although both the quality and quantity can dramatically vary depending on where you are. You will have to pay for the food regardless of its quality. Normally it’ll be included in the quarantine cost and, other times, it’ll be billed separately. You may also have the option to ‘upgrade’ your meals.

Teach in China - Food to expect in China Centralised Quarantine

Luckily, many hotels have allowed daily deliveries for certain items (like canned foods and fresh produce) so you could (potentially) be able to order Western meals, delivered straight to your door (at your own cost, naturally).

Unfortunately, the situation is so fluid that you simply should not rely on that. First of all, you won’t even know which hotel you’ll be allocated, let alone if any delivery allowances will be made.

Planning Your Food in Chinese Quarantine

You need to pack as if you’re about to climb Everest. Think cup-a-soups, energy bars, nuts, dried fruits and seeds; instant coffee, tea, chocolate and 2-minute noodles. Any dehydrated packets that just need boiling water will come in handy. Have plenty of crackers and canned tuna at hand. Although it may or may not be confiscated, you might want to risk packing a couple of bottles of wine. Alcohol is banned in some hotels whilst totally fine in others. If it were us, we’d certainly take the risk.

You’ll probably have a mini-fridge in your hotel room but it may also be worth packing an electric travel hot-plate or a slow cooker. Camping cutlery is a must.

Once you have your own stash of goodies, the steamed rice with dubious bits of meat that you may/may not be served for lunch won’t seem so bad. 

While you may or not luck out, the consensus is that generally the food is not of the highest quality or variety. You may be ordering out more than you planned. For the average westerner, thick doughy bread and chicken feet are not something you want staring back from your plate.

The Boredom in Chinese Quarantine

Anti-social loners would probably cope better with centralised quarantine. However, when it comes to teachers who love nothing more than to surround themselves with excited kids and eager students, the lack of contact and entertainment will make for some stressful days.

So be prepared. Write that book, learn that new language, take daily yoga classes and fill up your Kindle to bursting point. Make sure to have a VPN installed (find one that’s guaranteed to work in China) on your device so you can Facebook and WhatsApp to your heart’s content and, more importantly, Netflix-binge. Worried that you (or the kids) will get screen-time overload? This is centralised quarantine in China, for heaven’s sake! There are NO rules!

Families from countries that have not suffered through any kind of lockdown (are there any, really?) ought to scour the net for fun ideas on how to entertain kids during quarantine.

Clothing & Toiletries

Take it from those of us who have quarantined at home: living in a tracksuit, day and day out, is totally acceptable. But seriously: leave room and weight in your luggage for food and food-related items and pack light, but smart. Always pack a sweater in case the air-con is turned way up. Bring some handwashing liquid.

The usual travel-bag of shower tricks will do the trick in quarantine in China. You may also want to pack a disinfectant cleaning spray and cloth, for your room. 

The Routine in Chinese Quarantine

If you have yet to experience a full lockdown, you may be tempted to throw the watch in the bin on the first day and just do ‘whatever, whenever’. Yet take it from those who’ve come before you: routine is key to keeping your mental (and physical) health in check. 

Get up at the same time every morning and make sure you have a fulfilling breakfast. Eat healthy, exercise and make at least one voice or video call, every single day. More importantly, use the time to do something you’ve never had the time to do before. For instance, take an online course, write, learn a new skill or take a virtual tour of some amazing museum on the other side of the world.

A good APP to download is the Nike Training App. This provides daily exercise routines that can be done in your bedroom. Kick those chairs back and get your sweat on. 

The Daily Health Checks

Once you check into your hotel, your temperature will be take upteen times. To keep an yes on your temperature during quarantine, one fo two things will happen

  •  You’ll be given a thermometer and will be called, usually twice a day, to relay the info. 
  • Staff in protective gear will call at your door twice a day to take your temperature

At the half-way point of your quarantine, you’ll usually be subjected to the COVID tests and once again just before being released.

If you have issues with old-style mercury-thermometers (or have kids who do) bring your own digital thermometer from home.

Manage to survive 14 days with no COVID infection in centralised quarantine and you will literally be home free! 

The Release from Quarantine in China

Once your release from quarantine has been approved, you will be given a release letter and it’s important that you keep this document with you at all times. Your employer will want to see it and, in some cases, even your apartment manager.

Once released, you are allowed to return to life as normal, always respecting local health guidelines (social distancing and wearing masks, where appropriate). Some schools may allow you to get back to work straight away whilst others may insist you stay away from the school for a further 7-14 days. Once again, the situation is not uniform throughout the country.

Given the unpredictability of the current situation in China, and elsewhere around the world, it is impossible to delve into minute details on every possible scenario when it comes to centralised quarantine in China. For more personalised advice and help in securing a teaching job in China in 2020, contact us today.

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David O Connor

David O Connor

David is China by Teaching’s chief contributor. When not offering sage advice about teaching in China, David is a headmaster of a Bilingual kindergarten in Beijing. David is a lover of craft beers, book clubs and super long road trips.

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