China suspends visas for South Koreans in retaliation for virus

China suspends visas for South Koreans in retaliation for virus

China suspends visas for South Koreans in retaliation for virus

BEIJING (AP) — China on Tuesday suspended visas for South Koreans to come to the country for tourism or business in apparent retaliation for COVID-19 testing requirements imposed on Chinese travelers.

A brief notice posted online by the Chinese Embassy in Seoul said the ban would apply until South Korea lifts its “discriminatory measures on entry from China” into the country.

No further details were given, although China threatened to retaliate. against countries that require travelers from China to present a negative test result for COVID-19 taken within the previous 48 hours.

China requires the same measures for arriving travellers. A dozen countries have followed the United States in requiring negative tests for travelers from China, which lifted most of its “zero-COVID” restrictions for the first time in three years but is also experiencing a major outbreak. since last month.

The World Health Organization and several countries have accused China of withholding data on its hatching. The testing requirements are aimed at identifying potential variants of the virus carried by travellers.

China’s ambassador to Australia said these countries’ response to the COVID-19 outbreak in China has been neither proportionate nor constructive.

Xiao Qian told reporters in Canberra that China changed its strategy late last year from preventing infections to preventing serious cases. He said countries should use a science-based response.

“Entry restrictions, if they are aimed at China, they are useless,” the ambassador told reporters.

“If you look at other countries around the world and their policies towards China, I mean, their responsible actions towards China (are) not constructive. It’s not based on science. It’s not proportionate,” he said.

Online notice to Seoul embassy did not explain why China singled out South Korea for retaliation, though President and Communist Party leader Xi Jinping’s deeply nationalist government has long resented the alliance of Seoul with the United States.

Once-cordial ties between South Korea and its biggest trading partner soured after China targeted businesses, sports teams and even K-pop groups to protest the deployment of an advanced US anti-missile system in South Korea. China fought alongside North Korea in the 1950-53 war and remained a staunch supporter of Pyongyang amid its missile launches and nuclear tests.

China abruptly rolled back its strict pandemic containment requirements last month in response to what it says is the changing nature of the outbreak. It came after three years of lockdowns, quarantines and mass testing that have sparked street protests in Beijing and other major cities not seen in three decades.

The most optimistic forecasts indicate that China’s business and consumer activity could pick up as early as the first quarter of this year. But before that happens, entrepreneurs and families are facing painful pressure from a rise in virus cases that has left employers without enough healthy workers and kept wary customers away from malls, restaurants, hair salons and gymnasiums.

Xi’s government’s abrupt decision to end controls that have shuttered factories and kept millions at home will hasten the timetable for economic recovery, but could disrupt activity this year as businesses scramble to adapt, according to forecasters.

China now faces rising cases and hospitalizations in major cities and is preparing for further spread in less developed areas with the start of the Lunar New Year travel rush, which is expected to begin in the coming days. While international flights are still reduced, authorities say they expect domestic rail and air journeys to double from the same period last year, bringing overall numbers down to those of the period. 2019 holidays before the pandemic hit.

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Associated Press writer Joe McDonald contributed to this report from Beijing.

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