Chinese officials said Tuesday that the country will resume issuing passports and visas in another large step toward winding down the country's "zero COVID" policy.
The move could potentially mean a massive wave of Chinese tourists will go abroad for the first time in more than a year, especially ahead of the upcoming Chinese New Year in January, which The Associated Press noted is normally the country's biggest traveling season.
This marks a rapid change in the government's handling of overseas travel, as China has largely isolated itself from the rest of the world since the pandemic's outbreak. Bloomberg reported that China had not been issuing new passports to its citizens since August 2021, except in the case of emergencies.
In addition to the re-issuance of passports, officials said they will also resume travel visas to Hong Kong for people living on the Chinese mainland, something that has not happened since nearly the start of the pandemic.
The country said it will also gradually begin admitting foreign visitors, though no timetable for this was given.
Bloomberg also noted that the passport announcement came just one day after China officially downgraded its COVID management status from the highest to the second-highest ranking.
However, concerns are rising, particularly among other Asian nations in the vicinity of China, that the re-engaging of tourism could cause the disease to spread, especially as China continues to battle a massive wave of new infections.
Taiwan, India, South Korea, and Japan have all issued decrees requiring COVID tests for any visitors from China.