China is closing its border to foreigners amid fears of imported novel coronavirus cases causing a second outbreak in the country where the infection was first detected.
In a statement late Thursday, the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that “in view of the rapid spread of Covid-19 across the world, China has decided to temporarily suspend the entry into China by foreign nationals holding visas or residence permits” as of March 28.
Anyone wishing to enter the country will have to apply for a visa at their local Chinese embassy or consulate. The announcement did not say how long this would take.
The decision to effectively seal off the country is the latest in a series of moves intended to safeguard against infection from international travel, after more than 500 imported cases of the coronavirus were confirmed.
It also comes after Beijing repeatedly criticized other governments for taking similar measures during the early weeks and months of the coronavirus pandemic. The World Health Organization (WHO) also called on countries not to limit travel from China, while praising Beijing for measures taken to rein in infections.
Speaking in Israel after that country announced severe restrictions on all foreign arrivals, China’s ambassador reportedly said that “in the darkest days of the Jewish people, we didn’t close the door on them. I hope Israel will not close the door on the Chinese.”
The embassy later apologized, saying there was “no intention whatsoever to compare the dark days of the Holocaust with the current situation,” according to the Times of Israel.
When the US raised its China travel advisory to the highest level in February, the country’s foreign ministry said this “set a bad example” and was “certainly not a gesture of goodwill.”
“Virus respects no borders. It requires a collective response from the international community,” China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said later that month. “In our view, the enhanced inspection measures taken by some countries are reasonable but some other countries have overreacted. Their overreaction has caused unnecessary panic and is not consistent with the WHO recommendations.”