HONG KONG (AP) — China will reopen its borders to tourists and resume issuing all visas Wednesday as it tries to revive tourism and its economy following a three-year halt during the COVID-19 pandemic.
China is one of the last major countries to reopen its borders to tourists. The announcement Tuesday came after it declared a “decisive victory” over COVID-19 in February.
All types of visas will resume from Wednesday. Visa-free entry also will resume at destinations such as Hainan island as well as for cruise ships entering Shanghai that had no visa requirement before COVID-19.
Foreigners holding visas issued before March 28, 2020, that are still valid will be allowed to enter China. Visa-free entry will resume for foreigners entering Guangdong in southern China from Hong Kong and Macao. The notice didn't specify whether vaccination certificates or negative COVID-19 tests would be required, but Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told reporters Tuesday that China had “optimized measures for remote testing of people coming to China from relevant countries," allowing pre-boarding antigen testing instead of nucleic acid testing.
“All these have been well implemented, and the epidemic risk is generally controllable,” Wang said at a daily briefing.
The move would “further facilitate the exchange of Chinese and foreign personnel,” according to the notice posted on the websites of numerous Chinese missions and embassies.
China had stuck to a harsh “zero-COVID” strategy involving sudden lockdowns and daily COVID-19 testing to try to stop the virus before abandoning most aspects of the policy in December amid growing opposition.
The relaxation of visa rules follows China's approval of outbound group tours for Chinese citizens, the results of which have been positive, and the overall improvement in pandemic conditions, Wang said.
“China will continue to make better arrangements for the safe, healthy and orderly movement of Chinese and foreign personnel on the basis of scientific assessments and in light of the situation," he said. “We also hope that all parties will join China in creating favorable conditions for cross-border exchanges."
Zen Soo, The Associated Press