China says it will resume issuing visas to foreign tourists for the first time since closing its borders at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic three years ago.
The announcement comes after the country said it defeated the virus and is in the last step in ending its three-year zero-COVID policy.
In December 2022, China’s immigration authority said the country would scrap quarantine for inbound travellers from January 8.
The announcement stirred up concerns as the Asian country was facing a surge in COVID cases although government officials accused the media of “hyping up” the situation.
As a result, countries around the world tightened protocol for travellers arriving from China.
On Tuesday, Ji Rong, an official in China’s ministry of foreign affairs, said the country would resume issuing all categories of visas for foreigners from March 15.
Unexpired visas obtained before March 28, 2020 – the date China closed its borders – would also be valid.
Tour groups from Hong Kong and Macau will also regain their visa-free privilege while visa-free entry will also resume in Hainan Island and Shanghai for cruise ships.
Millions of international visitors and tourists frequented China each year prior to the pandemic.
The country’s tourism industry has been the worst hit by its strict zero-COVID measures.
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