China Retaliates: Beijing halts travel visas for South Korea, Japan
Beijing has suspended the issuance of short-term visas to South Korean and Japanese nationals, in apparent retaliation against multiple restrictions imposed on travellers from China due to a spike in Covid cases in the country.
Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida expressed disappointment Wednesday, saying: “It is extremely regrettable that China has unilaterally implemented restrictions that seem to have nothing to do with countermeasures against the novel coronavirus.” Japan’s border measures for Chinese arrivals are temporary, he underscored.
Seoul and Tokyo have joined more than a dozen countries that have tightened border controls for arrivals from China over concerns about an expected surge of illnesses after Beijing changed its strict ‘zero-COVID’ policy last month following widespread protests.
However, Beijing says the restrictions are discriminatory and not based on science.
Japan now requires mainland Chinese passengers to provide documentation of a negative result for a PCR test taken less than 72 hours before departure and a negative test on arrival in Japan.
South Korea has also started capping flights from China, and passengers from the mainland, Hong Kong and Macau must test negative before departure. Mainland travellers are also being tested on arrival and the ones testing positive are required to quarantine for a week.
China dismantled the final pillars of its stringent policy on January 8 by reopening its borders to international visitors for the first time in almost three years. Mainland China has also opened its border to Hong Kong.
The containment policy had a significant impact on the world’s second-biggest economy and triggered violent protests across the country. Although the move has been welcomed by many, the outbreak is forecast to worsen in the coming days as China enters the lunar new year holiday this month. Millions are expected to travel from megacities to the countryside during this time.