China has suspended entry for foreign visitors from a further eight countries as it seeks to prevent importing the coronavirus.
Notices telling people about the restrictions were posted on the websites of China’s embassies in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, France, India, Italy, Nigeria, Russia and Ukraine on Thursday. They came after would-be travellers from Britain, Belgium and the Philippines were given a similar message.
The statements said the suspensions were a “temporary response necessitated by the current situation of Covid-19”.
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China’s foreign ministry said on Thursday the ruling was based on the changing epidemic situation in the countries involved, and described the move as “reasonable and in line with international practices”.
The restriction would apply regardless of whether people held valid visas or residence permits, but members of the diplomatic service and international transport workers, like airline crews, would be exempt, the statements said.
While several of the countries served with notices have reported high numbers of coronavirus infections and deaths from Covid-19, the two nations with the largest caseloads – the United States and Brazil, have so far escaped China’s no-entry ruling.
However, Beijing said last week that visitors from the US would be required to produce both a nucleic acid test and a blood test no more than 48 hours before boarding their flights to China. Similar conditions apply to travellers from Australia, Germany, Canada and several other countries.
Authorities in Wuhan, where the coronavirus was first detected late last year, said this week that 23 passengers on a direct flight from New Delhi that arrived in the city on October 30 had tested positive for Covid-19.
More than 250 other passengers who had travelled on the flight had been placed in quarantine, the municipal health commission said. It did not give a breakdown of their nationalities.
India has reported more than 8.4 million coronavirus infections since the start of the pandemic and close to 125,000 deaths.
On Thursday, a Chinese airline passenger who transited through Beijing airport en route from Sweden to her home in Hubei province was also confirmed as being infected. Health authorities in Beijing said the woman and all those she had travelled with on the aircraft and in transit vehicles had been put in collective quarantine.
There are currently no restrictions on entry to China for travellers from Sweden.
The Beijing health commission said on its website that the “epidemic situation abroad is still in a high-incidence situation, and imported confirmed cases occur from time to time”.
It advised Beijingers not to leave the country, but if their trip was essential they should opt for a direct flight to reduce the risk of infection while in transit.
The European Union Chamber of Commerce in China said it was deeply concerned about the return of visa suspension measures, adding that many legal residents from the countries affected had been stuck outside China since similar measures were first imposed in March.
“The door has steadily inched open in the intervening months, culminating with the September 28 announcement that those with a valid residency permit could come back without a return visa under certain conditions, a development that was warmly welcomed by foreign nationals residing in China,” it said.
“By closing the door to legal residents less than two months later, China has dealt a serious body blow to business sentiment.”
Chamber president Joerg Wuttke said: “Slamming the door shut on foreign residents trying to return to China the same week that the China International Import Expo kicked off sends quite the mixed message.”
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