Tokyo. A day after Chinese embassies on Tuesday stopped issuing new visas to people from South Korea and Japan, the two countries defended public health restrictions imposed on travelers arriving from China. It is not clear whether China will extend this visa suspension to other countries that have made testing mandatory for travelers from the country as the number of COVID-19 cases in China rises.
South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin said on Wednesday that he felt “deeply regretful” that China had stopped issuing short-term visas to South Koreans. He called on China to align its pandemic measures with “scientific and objective facts”.
According to South Korea’s Agency for Disease Control and Prevention, about 17 percent of 2,550 short-term travelers from China from January 2 to Tuesday have been found infected. South Korea has stopped issuing most short-term visas at its consulates in China as of the end of January. All travelers from China, Hong Kong and Macau are required to submit a COVID-19 test done at the airport, as well as a certificate of not being infected with a test done within 48 hours of their arrival.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno criticized China for “unilaterally” restricting the issuance of visas to Japanese citizens. He said it was done “for a reason not related to anti-Covid-19 measures”. Matsuno said Tokyo opposes it and calls on China to cancel the move. Japan will respond appropriately “by closely observing the situation of the coronavirus infection in China and how the disclosure of information is handled by the Chinese side,” he added.
Matsuno said that due to the spreading infection in China and the lack of transparency about the situation, Japan had to take temporary measures to avoid the rapid flow of infections in the country. He said the Japanese border measures are purely aimed at preventing infection and are aimed at limiting the impact on international travel. “It is extremely regrettable that China has unilaterally imposed restrictions on the issuance of visas,” he said. Embassies in Tokyo and Seoul announced the visa suspension in a brief notice released online. It is not yet known when the system of issuing visas will be restored.
China’s foreign ministry last week threatened retaliation against countries that announced mandatory screening for travelers to China. At least 10 countries in Europe, North America and Asia have taken such a step recently. Meanwhile, Thailand sent three ministers to Suvarnabhumi airport to welcome the first group of tourists from China in recent years in an effort to boost domestic tourism. Japan reopened its borders to individual tourism in October.
Most travelers were fine with showing proof of vaccination rather than testing at the airport, unless they showed symptoms of illness. However, from December 30, it was made mandatory for travelers from China to show pre-departure negative test reports as well as undergo an additional test on arrival. If found infected, passengers have to remain in isolation for seven days in designated facilities. Of the 497 people who tested positive upon arrival from December 31 to January 9, about 97 percent were Chinese or had recently been to China, according to health ministry data.
read this also : Noma, which has won the title of World’s Best Restaurant 5 times, will be closed in 2024