All Nippon Airways Co. launched a flight Monday between Japan's Narita airport near Tokyo and Shenzhen in southern China -- the first international route it has opened since March, when the coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic.

The airline began operating the new route after Tokyo and Beijing restarted reciprocal business travel last month. The company is also targeting an increase in demand for cargo transportation as China fuels its economic recovery from the global health crisis.

Passengers take boarding procedures at an All Nippon Airways check-in counter for the airline's inaugural flight to Shenzhen, China, at Narita airport near Tokyo on Dec. 14, 2020. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

ANA already operates flights to Shanghai, Guangzhou and Qingdao in mainland China.

The new route was originally scheduled to open in March connecting Shenzhen, which hosts many high-tech companies in a wide range of industries, with Tokyo's Haneda airport. But ANA changed its plan due to the virus outbreak. One round trip will be made once a week, the company said.

On Monday, 13 passengers boarded the flight bound for Shenzhen.

"I have a two-week quarantine period waiting for me (there). The novel coronavirus spread from China all over the world, so I wonder if it is really OK (to go there)," said Masato Sato, a 37-year-old from Yamagata Prefecture, northeastern Japan, before traveling to the Chinese city.

A Chinese engineer residing in Tokyo said, "I am worried that public transportation including buses may halt due to the virus. That would affect my work."

Last month, Japan and China started accepting visa applications for business travel, easing coronavirus-necessitated travel restrictions as part of efforts to help the world's second- and third-largest economies recover.

Under a bilateral agreement, the two countries allow businesspeople on short-term visits to be exempted from the usual 14-day quarantine period upon arrival if they test negative for the coronavirus and submit an itinerary of their activities in advance.

For expatriates and other long-term stays, the quarantine requirement after arriving in the respective countries remains in effect.