China blocks S Korea, Japan visas over Covid

Seoul, Jan 10 (IANS) China has stopped issuing short-term visas to individuals from South Korea and Japan in retaliation for Covid restrictions on Chinese travelers, media reports said on Tuesday.

Visas for South Koreans entering China as tourists have been suspended, Beijing’s embassy in Seoul said, the BBC reported.

And Japanese media reported China was imposing similar measures there, it said.

It’s a tit-for-tat move which Beijing says will remain in place until “discriminatory” entry restrictions against China are lifted.

Last week, South Korea stopped issuing tourist visas for those coming from China, which the Chinese Foreign Ministry called “unacceptable” and “unscientific”.

Reacting to China’s latest move, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry told the BBC that its policy towards arrivals from China was “in accordance with scientific and objective evidence”.

Japan, meanwhile, is currently allowing Chinese visitors into the country – provided they test negative for Covid.

According to South Korea’s Disease Control and Prevention Agency, around a third of all arrivals from China tested positive for Covid prior to the visa restrictions being put in place.

At Seoul’s Incheon International airport – the only South Korean airport still allowing flights from China – arrivals are met by military personnel in personal protective equipment, BBC reported.

Many South Koreans support the idea of protecting their country from China’s coronavirus surge – but not all are convinced that the decision is a purely medical one.

The South Korean curbs are supposed to last at least until the end of the month, which would give scientists time to analyse for any potential new variants coming from China.

“There’s no transparency at the moment in China about any monitoring for new variants. If a new variant comes from China, it would be a very difficult situation for the whole world,” Professor Kim Woo Joo, an infectious diseases expert at Korea University and a government adviser, told the BBC.

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