Simone McCarthy and Wayne Chan, CNN
Chinese authorities have stopped issuing certain visas to South Koreans and Japanese Citizens as Beijing retaliates against recent Covid immigration restrictions on arrivals from China.
“Visas for business, tourism, medical treatment, transit and general private affairs will be suspended for South Korean citizens starting today,” the Chinese Embassy in Seoul said in a statement on Tuesday. The embassy added that the measures would be “adjusted” if South Korea lifted its “discriminatory” entry restrictions against China.
Later that day, the Chinese embassy in Tokyo suspended the issuance of regular visas to Japanese citizens, saying the resumption of services would be “notified in the future.”
The restrictions mark China’s first retaliation for restrictions and screenings imposed on travelers from China. After Beijing lifted its strict coronavirus measures last month, many countries have pulled out of China in recent weeks, citing concerns over the recent surge in infections in the country and limited data on the outbreak. Moved to require travelers to be tested.
On January 2, South Korea took it a step further by suspending short-term visa applications from Chinese consulates until the end of the month. In addition, anyone traveling from China must undergo a PCR test within 24 hours of arrival and quarantine until the result is negative.
From 5 January, travelers from China are also required to present a negative PCR test result taken within 48 hours of departure or a rapid antigen test taken within 24 hours.
Since last Saturday, South Korea has allowed people traveling from Hong Kong and Macau to have a negative Covid-19 test from either a PCR test taken within 48 hours before departure or a rapid antigen test taken within 24 hours before departure. He also demanded to show proof of the results. trip.
On December 30, Japan began imposing an on-arrival inspection requirement for all persons who have traveled from or been in mainland China in the past seven days.
On Monday, the government also said that from 12 January, all travelers coming from the Chinese territory Macau on direct flights should submit Covid-19 test results conducted within 72 hours of departure and undergo a Covid-19 test on arrival. announced that it would be necessary to receive
China’s move follows Monday’s phone call between Foreign Minister Qin Gang and South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin, in which Qin “expressed concern” about the restrictions, according to a Chinese statement. to take an “objective and scientific” approach. side.
The two sides made official comments on the situation at a regular briefing on Tuesday, with the South Korean side saying the Covid-related restrictions on travelers from China were “based on scientific and objective grounds.”
South Korea’s foreign ministry spokesman Lim Soo-sook said the government was “transparently sharing relevant information with the international community and continuing communication with the Chinese side.”
China’s foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said the country “resolutely opposes” the “discriminatory” entry restrictions imposed on Chinese tourists and would “take corresponding countermeasures.”
“Several countries continued to impose discriminatory immigration restrictions, ignoring scientific facts and the actual epidemic situation in China… We urge all parties to take appropriate pandemic control measures, which will affect normal personnel exchanges and cooperation.”
Japan’s Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi also protested China’s decision, saying Tokyo had requested through diplomatic channels that the Chinese government withdraw the move.
“It is very disappointing that China has decided to restrict the issuance of (visas) for reasons other than Covid-19 measures,” Lin told reporters in Argentina on Tuesday during a diplomatic trip across the Americas. told to
Concerns about variants
The move marks China’s drastic move to overturn strict border controls that required all entering the country, whether Chinese or eligible foreigners, to undergo multiple Covid-19 tests and mandatory hotel quarantines. This was done after a few days of mitigation.
In recent weeks, more than a dozen countries, including the United States, France, Canada, Japan and Australia, have made Covid-19 testing mandatory for travelers from China. This is due to the level of data reported by the country and concerns about possible new variants of the novel coronavirus. A virus appeared there. No such variant has been reported yet.
Some health experts around the world have criticized targeted travel screening as ineffective and have expressed concern that such measures could foster racism and xenophobia. increase.
On Tuesday, top global health officials repeatedly called on China, as well as the rest of the world, to provide details about the circulating coronavirus sequence.
“We need to share more sequences in publicly available databases like GISAID so that experts around the world can analyze them,” said Covid-19 technical director at the World Health Organization. Maria Van Kerkhove said at the regular briefing.
She noted that many of the “high-income countries” that have been “critical” of China also need to share sequences to help the scientific community track the coronavirus.
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Stephen Jiang of CNN in Beijing, Emiko Shirotsuka in Tokyo, and Yoon Jong Seo and Ga Won Bae in Seoul contributed to the report.