- China has suspended short-term visas for individuals from South Korea and Japan as a retaliatory measure against COVID-19 travel restrictions.
- The move escalates tensions between China and these countries, with the Chinese Foreign Ministry calling South Korea's move "unacceptable" and "unscientific"
- There are concerns over a lack of transparency in China regarding new COVID-19 variants, which could have a severe impact on global health.
China has taken retaliatory action against South Korea and Japan by halting the issuance of short-term visas to individuals from these countries. The move comes in response to COVID-19 restrictions imposed on Chinese travelers by these countries.
According to the Beijing embassy in Seoul, the suspension of tourist visas for South Koreans entering China will remain in place until such time as the "discriminatory" entry restrictions against China are lifted. Japanese media has also reported that China has imposed similar measures for Japanese citizens.
The move is being seen as a "tit-for-tat" action by China and comes as an escalation of tension between the countries. Last week, South Korea announced that it would be stopping the issuance of tourist visas to those coming from China, a move that the Chinese Foreign Ministry described as "unacceptable" and "unscientific". In response, South Korea's Foreign Ministry has stated that their policy towards arrivals from China is "in accordance with scientific and objective evidence".
Currently, Japan is allowing Chinese visitors into the country, provided they test negative for COVID-19. However, according to the Disease Control and Prevention Agency in South Korea, around one-third of all arrivals from China tested positive for COVID-19 prior to the imposition of visa restrictions.
The visa restrictions will be in place at least until the end of the month, providing scientists with enough time to analyze the potential spread of any new COVID-19 variants coming from China. There are concerns that there is currently a lack of transparency in China regarding the monitoring of new variants. Professor Kim Woo Joo, an infectious diseases expert at Korea University and a government advisor, stated that if a new variant of the virus comes from China, it would be a "difficult situation for the whole world" and a "disaster for the Korean healthcare system."
Currently, only a small number of business or diplomatic travelers from China are being allowed into South Korea. These travelers must test negative for COVID-19 before departure and upon arrival. In addition, at Seoul's Incheon International Airport, the only South Korean airport that still allows flights from China, arrivals are met by military personnel in personal protective equipment.
While many South Koreans support the idea of protecting their country from the COVID-19 surge in China, not all are convinced that the decision to limit travel is a purely medical one. There is a growing sentiment among the population that the decision to limit travel is politically motivated, and there is a growing animosity towards China, blaming it for the COVID-19 pandemic.