China suspends visa issuance in Japan and South Korea

China suspends visa issuance in Japan and South Korea
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  • Chinese embassy decrees “discriminatory” border rules with South Korea
  • Some cities say the peak of COVID infections was last month
  • Chinese state media criticizes Pfizer over the price of Paxlovid

BEIJING, Jan 10 (Reuters) – China suspended the issuance of short-term visas in South Korea and Japan on Tuesday, after announcing it would retaliate against countries that require negative COVID-19 tests from Chinese travelers.

China has abandoned mandatory quarantines for arrivals and allowed travel to resume across its border with Hong Kong since Sunday, removing the last major restrictions under the “zero-COVID” regime that began to be abruptly dismantled in early December after of historic protests against the restrictions.

But the virus is spreading unchecked among its 1.4 billion people, and concerns about the scale and impact of its outbreak have prompted Japan, South Korea, the United States and other countries to require negative COVID tests for travelers from China.

Although China imposes similar testing requirements for all arrivals, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters on Tuesday that the entry restrictions for Chinese travelers were “discriminatory” and that China would take “reciprocal measures.” .

In the first retaliatory move, the Chinese embassy in South Korea Suspension of issuance of short-term visas for visitors from South Korea. It would adjust the policy subject to the lifting of South Korea’s “discriminatory entry restrictions” against China, the embassy said on its official WeChat account.

The Chinese embassy in Japan later announced a similar move, saying the mission and its consulates had suspended visa issuance as of Tuesday. The embassy statement did not say when they would resume.

The move came shortly after Japan tightened COVID-19 rules for travelers coming directly from China, prescribing a negative result of a PCR test taken less than 72 hours before departure, as well as a negative test to the get to Japan. read more

With the virus on the loose, China has stopped publishing daily infection counts. It has been reporting five or fewer deaths a day since the U-turn policy, figures that have been disputed by the World Health Organization and are inconsistent with funeral providers reporting rising demand.

Some governments have raised concerns about the transparency of the Beijing data, as international experts predict at least 1 million deaths in China this year. Washington has also expressed concern about potential future mutations of the virus.

China dismisses criticism of its data as politically motivated attempts to smear its “success” in handling the pandemic, saying any future mutations are likely to be more infectious but less harmful.

“Since the outbreak, China has been open and transparent,” said Wang of the Foreign Ministry.

But as infections rise in China’s vast rural hinterland, many, including elderly victims, are just not bothering to get tested.


State media downplayed the severity of the outbreak.

An article in Health Times, a publication run by People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the ruling Communist Party, quoted several officials as saying that infections have fallen in the capital Beijing and in several Chinese provinces.

Officials in southern tech powerhouse Shenzhen announced Tuesday that the city had also passed its peak.

Kan Quan, director of the Henan Province Epidemic Prevention and Control Office, said nearly 90% of people in the central province of 100 million people had been infected as of January 1. 6.

In the eastern province of Jiangsu, the peak was reached on December 21. On February 22, while in the neighboring province of Zheijiang “the first wave of infections has passed without problems,” authorities said.

Financial markets saw the latest border restrictions as a mere inconvenience, and the yuan hit a nearly five-month high.

Although daily flights in and out of China are still at a tenth of pre-COVID-19 levels, businesses across Asia, from shop owners in South Korea and Japan to Thai tour bus operators and groups Kpop celebrated the prospect of more Chinese tourists.

In another sign of opening, Beijing Daxing International Airport will resume international flights for the first time in nearly three years from January 17, along with Beijing Capital International Airport.

Chinese shoppers spent $250 billion a year abroad before COVID.


Border rules were not the only COVID conflict brewing in China.

State media lashed out at Pfizer Inc. (PFE.N) about the price of your COVID Paxlovid treatment.

“It is not a secret that the US capital forces have already amassed a great fortune in the world through the sale of vaccines and medicines, and the US government has been coordinating all along,” said the nationalist tabloid Global Times in an editorial.

Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla said Monday that the company was in talks with Chinese authorities about the price of Paxlovid, but not about the license of a generic version in China.

China’s abrupt reversal in COVID policies has caught many hospitals ill-equipped, while smaller cities have been left scrambling to get basic fever medicines.

Yu Weishi, president of Youcare Pharmaceutical Group, told Reuters his company has increased production of its anti-fever medicines fivefold to one million boxes a day in the past month.

Reports from the Beijing and Shanghai offices; Additional reporting by Rocky Swift and Maki Shiraki in Tokyo; Written by Marius Zaharia and Greg Torode; Edited by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Peter Graff

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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