China is to resume issuing visas to foreign tourists for the first time since the Covid pandemic broke out three years ago. BBC News has more.
The major easing of restrictions comes after Beijing declared victory over the virus and retreated from a zero-Covid strategy that has hurt its economy.
From March 15th, foreign offices can process applications for Chinese visas.
Visa-free entry will also resume in Hainan Island and Shanghai for cruise ships.
Tour groups from Hong Kong and Macau will also regain their visa-free privilege.
In addition, valid visas issued before China closed to the world on March 28th 2020 will be honoured again.
The removal of the last cross-border restrictions imposed to tackle Covid marks a major step towards the resumption of normal life in post-pandemic China.
Tens of millions of international visitors came to China each year prior to the pandemic, and its tourism industry has been hard hit by strict anti-Covid measures.
Interesting to note how late China was in closing its borders in 2020 – by March 28th most of the world had already shut out tourists. A reminder that while the country pioneered lockdown measures in Wuhan during January and February 2020, the wider country was never placed under the kind of nationwide measures that we experienced in the West, and even the borders were not closed until after everyone else had already done so. An expression, perhaps, of the idea that China’s ‘targeted’ measures in Hubei and other affected areas had successfully ‘contained’ the virus, leading to a reluctance to impose wider measures. It’s also a reflection I think of the still unexplained fact that East Asia (outside Wuhan and one or two other hotspots) suffered very little from Covid in the first wave, or indeed until Omicron arrived in late 2021.
Worth reading in full.