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Quarantine forms for travelers scrapped
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Foreign or Chinese passengers entering the country do not need to fill in quarantine declaration forms from next month, it was announced Wednesday.

However, they are required to make an oral declaration to border officers if they have fever, cough, infectious or mental diseases; or if they are carrying microorganisms, human tissues, blood or plasma products, animals, plants or their products.

The move aims to simplify immigration procedures and improve efficiency, according to the announcement jointly issued by the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) and the General Administration of Civil Aviation.

Current regulations require inbound passengers to fill - in addition to entry forms - quarantine declaration forms to help prevent diseases from spreading. Outbound passengers have to fill in a Customs declaration form apart from the exit form.

The complicated procedures have led to growing public complaints as passenger flows increase rapidly.

Figures from the Ministry of Public Security show that a cumulative 318 million people crossed the border last year, of whom 44 million were foreigners. In the first eight months of this year, 224 million people crossed the border, up 8 percent year-on-year.

Beijing Olympic Games organizers estimate that a cumulative 70 million foreigners will cross the border next year.

"The rapid increase in passenger traffic poses a challenge. So we're making great efforts to simplify immigration procedures," Xia Wenjun, an information officer with the AQSIQ, said.

The Public Security Ministry in October cancelled exit/entry registration for foreign or Chinese passengers who transit at a mainland airport for less than 24 hours on their way to another country. In addition, Chinese passengers no longer have to fill in exit forms when they leave the country.

However, in response to some worries that the simplified quarantine procedures may facilitate the spread of diseases, Xia said border officers have been told to strengthen supervision and make better use of technologies to prevent diseases from entering the country.

There will be an increase in the number of quarantine officers posted to conduct visual examination, more detectors will be used to test passengers' body temperature, and random X-ray checks on baggage will be tightened.

(China Daily December 20, 2007)

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