FILE – An airline employee asks travelers to declare their health information after checking in at the international flight counter at Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing on August 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Andy Wong, File )

HONG KONG (AP) — China will reopen its borders to tourists on Wednesday and reissue 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. Visa-free entry will also be allowed in destinations such as Hainan Island and for cruise ships arriving in Shanghai that did not have a visa requirement before COVID.19.

Foreigners with visas prior to March 28, 2020 that are still valid will be allowed to enter China. Visa-free access will be allowed for foreigners arriving in southern China’s Guangdong from Hong Kong and Macau. The statement did not specify whether vaccination certificates or negative COVID-19 tests would be required, although Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters on Tuesday that China had “optimized the measures of remote testing for people arriving in China from affected countries,” which would allow pre-registration with antigen testing instead of nucleic acid testing.

“All of this has been well implemented, and overall the epidemic risk is controllable,” Wang told 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.

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.”

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