China is one of the last countries in the world still holding on to the idea that they can reach zero Covid-19 cases. They have prioritized every restriction possible to accomplish the goal and have spared no expense. However, these draconian rules are massively impacting travel for missionaries.
In January 2020, Wuhan (the center of the first outbreak) was torturing and putting doctors in jail for reporting on Covid-19 and were extremely critical of any nation that recommended restricting travel to China, but today the scene is the exact opposite. China has implemented the harshest travel rules in the world, banning foreign tourists and restricting their own citizens from returning home.
Earlier this year, BTJ hosted a meeting outside of China with Chinese underground house church leaders and project coordinators. The Chinese leaders were able to easily leave China, but returning to China was a nightmare. The return tickets to China were canceled multiple times. The flights were few and the prices were sky high.
Eventually, the pastors and project coordinators paid almost $12,000 USD for economy class tickets to return to China and had to spend a total of 5 weeks in quarantine! It was the single most expensive trip BTJ has ever sponsored for Chinese pastors. To board their flight, they had to dress in complete sterile coverings, as if they were walking into a germ free zone.
The zero-tolerance Covid-19 measures have shifted China into a hyper police-state, leading to citywide lockdowns, mass testing, and the most intrusive contact-tracing measures in the world. As we write this article, China has put Lanzhou, a city of about four million people, on lockdown because of a new outbreak.
While the rest of the world has finally accepted the fact that Covid-19 is a disease that is simply not going away, China is not giving up. For the last 18 months, China has ostracized itself from the rest of the world – and it does not look like it is about to change any time soon.
Nations around the world are announcing relaxed travel measures for vaccinated travelers. Sweden, Norway, and Denmark have dropped all Covid-19-related rules. The United Kingdom has dropped all quarantine requirements for vaccinated travelers and Thailand, Singapore, and Canada are soon following next month, but China is not changing a thing. China announced that 4/5ths of their population is now vaccinated, but they are still not setting any goals for opening up. In fact, Hong Kong just announced their travel restrictions will continue until at least November 2022!
Continue to pray for the Chinese underground house church believers as they navigate lockdowns and total isolation from the outside world.