The tables have turned.
After numerous countries shut their borders to travelers coming from China, it is now China that is temporarily banning foreign visitors in a bid to curb imported cases of coronavirus and avoid a so-called second wave of infections.
Chinese authorities said the ban goes into effect Saturday and applies to foreigners holding visas and residence permits because of “the rapid spread of COVID-19 across the world.”
“The suspension is a temporary measure that China is compelled to take in light of the outbreak situation and the practices of other countries,” China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement Thursday.
China, the former epicenter of the outbreak, has seen a much lower rate of new infections this month than it did in January and February. However, most of the people testing positive had traveled overseas or had contact with someone who did.
In recent weeks, the country has reported dozens of new cases each day, down from thousands of new infections on most days of February.
The death toll has also slowed down dramatically. On Wednesday, for instance, Chinese health authorities reported only four new deaths to the World Health Organization while Italy reported more than 700, Spain reported over 500 and the U.S. added about 200.
Italy, which is struggling to contain the outbreak, has lost more than twice as many people than China — about 8,200, compared with China’s nearly 3,300, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
The slowdown is a sign that China’s strict lockdown and restrictions that have been in place in much of the country since January have proved successful.
The central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus is believed to have originated, citizens with a clean bill of health will be allowed to travel again in early April, months after an unprecedented transportation shutdown forced millions of people to stay home indefinitely. In other cities across Wuhan’s Hubei province, similar restrictions were lifted on Wednesday as million of residents finally began to resume normal life.
The latest travel ban also applies to those holding APEC Business Travel Cards. Diplomatic workers are exempt and any foreign nationals going to China “for necessary economic, trade, scientific or technological activities or out of emergency humanitarian needs” may still apply for visas, Chinese officials said.
[via NY Daily News]