(Bloomberg) -- The UK and China have agreed to resume direct passenger flights, a sign that Chinese authorities are slowly loosening their grip on the world’s tightest Covid-19 regime and opening up to travel again. 

Chinese airlines will offer the first flights and work is ongoing to resume routes for UK carriers, the British Embassy in China said in a tweet, confirming an agreement between the UK Department for Transport and the Civil Aviation Administration of China. 

The agreement follows other moves by China to ease its stringent pandemic border policy. Mandatory quarantine was halved to seven days in June and direct flights to the capital Beijing are starting up again for the first time since 2020. 

While likely to appease students and others wanting to return, China still has the toughest border curbs globally and stands in stark contrast to other places that allow people to travel freely again. Chinese authorities are continuing an aggressive Covid Zero approach at home, locking down cities even if only a handful of virus cases are detected and testing residents regularly. 

China on Sunday shortened suspensions for airlines that carry passengers infected with Covid. The aviation regulator said the move was aimed at promoting cooperation and personnel exchanges with other countries, while “scientifically and accurately” achieving epidemic prevention and control.

Beijing reported two new local Covid cases on Wednesday.

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