China will reopen its borders to tourists and resume issuing all visas on Wednesday, March 15, 2023, 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, made on Tuesday, March 14, 2023, came after it declared a “decisive victory” over COVID-19 in February. On that day, the state news agency disclosed that China is now transitioning to a post-pandemic stage after a fight against the outbreak that was “extraordinary in the extreme.”
The government will continue to “optimize and adjust prevention and control policies and measures according to the times and situations with a strong historical responsibility and strong strategic determination,” the news media added.
All types of visas will resume from Wednesday, March 15, 2023. 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 who have 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.
Optimized Measures For Remote Testing
The notice did not specify whether vaccination certificates or negative COVID-19 tests would be required, however, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, Wang Wenbin told reporters 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 disclosed at a daily briefing.
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.
However, the country can expect a significant increase in international arrivals, after it reopens its borders, analysts claim. Chinese citizens will also be allowed to travel on tour groups to 60 countries, up from 20 previously.
China disclosed that its gross domestic product grew just 3% in 2022, the worst in nearly half a century. For the current year, Beijing has set a 5% target with new Premier Li Qiang saying that the world’s second largest economy is stabilizing and picking up again.
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. We also hope that all parties will join China in creating favorable conditions for cross-border exchanges.”Wang Wenbin
The zero-COVID policy sparked rare protests against China’s leader, Xi Jinping until it was lifted in December, 2022. Xi has since solidified his grip on power in the Communist Party and secured a record third term as President.
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