Travelers at Beijing Capital International Airport (Reuters/File)

China will reopen its borders to tourists this Wednesday and re-issue all categories of visas after a three-year hiatus during the pandemic, in a bid to boost its economy and tourism industry.

China is one of the last major countries to reopen to tourists. The announcement came on Tuesday, after the government declared a “decisive victory” over COVID-19 in February.

From Wednesday, the processing of all visas will resume. I also know will allow visa-free entry to destinations such as Hainan Island and for cruise ships arriving in Shanghai who did not have a visa requirement before COVID.19.

The bone Foreigners with visas prior to March 28, 2020 that are still valid will be able to enter China. Visa-free access will be allowed for foreigners arriving in southern China’s Guangdong from Hong Kong and Macau.

The notice did not specify whether vaccination certificates or negative COVID-19 tests would be requiredalthough Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told reporters on Tuesday that China had “optimized remote testing measures for people arriving in China from relevant countries,” which would allow for a pre-registration with antigen testing instead of nucleic acid testing.

Lunar New Year travelers (Reuters)
Lunar New Year travelers (Reuters)

“It was all well implemented, and in general the epidemic risk is manageableWang said at a daily press conference.

The decision will “further facilitate the transfer of Chinese and foreigners”, according to a notice posted on the websites of various Chinese embassies and diplomatic missions.

The bone connoisseurs of the tourism sector do not expect a massive influx of visitors in the short term, nor a significant boost to the economy. In 2019, international tourism receipts accounted for just 0.9% of the Asian giant’s gross domestic product. But the resumption of tourist visa issuance marks a broader push by Beijing to normalize travel between China and the world, after it withdrew its warning to citizens against overseas travel in January.

China stuck to a strict “zero COVID” policy that included sudden lockdowns and daily COVID-19 testing to try to curb the virus. Most of those rules were dropped in December amid growing opposition.

Visa rules have been eased after an initial approval of departures for groups of Chinese citizens. The results of those tests were positive and pandemic conditions generally improved, Wang said.

“China will continue to make better arrangements for the safe, healthy and orderly movement of Chinese and foreigners based on scientific assessments and considering the situation,” he said. “We also trust all parties to join China in creating favorable conditions for cross-border trade.”

But visitors may not flock immediately.

The ace Unfavorable views on China among Western democracies have hardened due to human rights concerns and Beijing’s aggressive foreign policyas well as suspicion surrounding the handling of COVID-19, a global survey by the Pew Research Center showed in September.

(With information from AP and Reuters)

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