China has stopped issuing short-term visas to South Koreans in response to travel restrictions

Hong Kong

Chinese authorities have stopped issuing some visas to South Koreans and Japanese Citizens as Beijing retaliates against recent Covid entry restrictions on arrivals from China

“Visas for business, tourism, medical treatment, transportation and general private affairs will be suspended for South Korean citizens from today,” the Chinese embassy in Seoul said in a statement on Tuesday. The embassy added that measures would be “fixed” if South Korea lifted its “discriminatory” entry restrictions on China.

The Chinese embassy in Tokyo said it would suspend normal visa issuance to Japanese citizens for the day, resuming service “to be announced in the future”.

The restrictions mark China’s first retaliation against restrictions and screenings imposed on travelers from China. After Beijing dropped its strict Covid restrictions last month, several countries have moved in recent weeks to require testing from travelers from China, citing concerns about the country’s recent infections and limited data on the outbreak.

South Korea went a step further and on January 2 suspended short-term visa applications from its embassies in China until the end of the month. Travelers from China should undergo a PCR test within 24 hours of arrival and self-isolate until negative results are obtained.

From January 5, it has asked travelers from China to present a negative PCR test taken within 48 hours of departure or a rapid antigen test taken within 24 hours.

Starting last Saturday, people traveling from Hong Kong and Macau from South Korea must show proof of a negative Covid-19 test result – either a PCR test taken within 48 hours of departure or a rapid antigen test taken within 24 hours. travel

On December 30 Japan began requirements for anyone who had traveled from or been in mainland China in the previous seven days, requiring anyone who tests positive to be quarantined for seven days and undergo further testing.

On Monday, the government announced that starting January 12, all passengers arriving by direct flights from the Chinese territory of Macau must submit a negative Covid-19 test result and undergo a Covid-19 test within 72 hours of departure. .

China’s move followed a Monday phone call between Foreign Minister Qin Gang and his South Korean counterpart, Park Jin, in which Qin “expressed concern” over the restrictions and urged Seoul to take an “objective and scientific” approach. page.

The two countries made official comments on the situation during a regular briefing on Tuesday, with the South Korean side saying the Covid-related restrictions on travelers from China were “on a scientific and objective basis”.

South Korea’s foreign ministry spokesman Lim Soo-suk said the government “openly shares relevant information with the international community and is in constant communication with the Chinese side.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin echoed China’s earlier language, saying the country “firmly opposes” any “discriminatory” entry restrictions on Chinese travelers and will “take proportionate countermeasures.”

“A few countries are imposing discriminatory entry restrictions, ignoring the scientific facts and the actual epidemic situation in China… We call on these countries to come up with appropriate epidemic control measures based on facts and science, without engaging in political manipulation, discrimination, measures, and normal personnel exchange. and affect cooperation,” he said.

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi also protested China’s decision, saying Beijing had requested Tokyo through diplomatic channels to rescind the move.

“It is very regrettable that China has decided to limit the issuance of (visas) for reasons other than Covid-19 countermeasures,” Hayashi, who is on a diplomatic trip across the United States, told reporters in Argentina on Tuesday.

The move comes days after China significantly eased strict border controls that require those entering the country, either Chinese nationals or eligible foreigners, to undergo multiple Covid-19 tests and mandatory hotel quarantine.

In recent weeks, more than a dozen countries, including the United States, France, Canada, Japan and Australia, have mandated Covid-19 testing for travelers from China, amid concerns about the volume of data reported from the country and the potential for new strains. The virus will emerge there. No such variations have been reported so far.

Some health experts around the world have criticized targeted travel screening as ineffective and expressed concern that such measures could fuel racism and xenophobia.

World health officials on Tuesday made repeated calls for China – as well as the rest of the world – to provide details on the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.

“We need more footage to be shared in publicly available databases like GISAID so that it can be analyzed by experts around the world,” Maria van Kerkov, the World Health Organization’s technical lead on Covid-19, told a regular briefing.

He noted that many “high-income countries” that “important” China should share sequences with the scientific community in order to track the coronavirus.

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