Previously, South Korea had already tightened its borders to travelers from China, including from the two special autonomous cities of Hong Kong and Macau. They must test negative for Covid-19 before traveling and be tested again on arrival.
Positive residents are required to quarantine for a week. An incident also occurred when a Chinese citizen who tested positive on arrival in Seoul refused to be quarantined and fled.
This sparked a two-day manhunt that dominated South Korean headlines. The police finally found the Chinese national who was described as a medical tourist.
According to official figures, 2,224 Chinese nationals on short-term visas have landed in South Korea since January 2. A total of 17.5% tested positive on arrival.
South Korea actually limited the issuance of short-term visas to Chinese citizens first. But this excludes public officials, diplomats and those with important humanitarian and business purposes, until the end of January.
“We inevitably have to strengthen some anti-epidemic measures to prevent the spread of the virus in our country due to the worsening Covid-19 situation in China,” said South Korean Prime Minister (PM) Han Duck-soo last December.
Please note, in 2019 and 2020, tourists from China accounted for the largest proportion of all foreign tourists visiting South Korea. Namely, each reached 34.4% and 27.2%.
But the number of Chinese tourists dropped significantly in 2022, from 6.02 million in 2019 to 200,000 for January to November. From data from the Ministry of Culture, only 7.5% of all tourists are from abroad.
Shortly after South Korea, the Chinese Embassy in Japan then announced a similar move. In Tokyo the Chinese representative said the mission and consulates had suspended issuing visas from Tuesday.
“This step was taken immediately after Japan tightened Covid-19 rules for travelers arriving directly from China, by specifying a negative result from a PCR test carried out less than 72 hours before departure. Including a negative test on arrival in Japan,” wrote the JapanTimes media .
Citing Kyodo News , a travel agency in Tokyo said it was unable to apply for almost all types of Chinese visas. Reservations for visa procedures are currently unavailable.
“The last step is expected to affect Japanese business operations in China, with workers unable to travel from Japan,” the media quoted the agency as saying.
“We had to reschedule our planned business trip to China,” said an official with a Japanese manufacturing company.
Meanwhile, yesterday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said the Beijing government resolutely opposes the entry restrictions . He claimed it was discriminatory.
He called on relevant countries not to “engage in political manipulation”, saying it affected exchanges and cooperation between China and those countries.
In fact, not only South Korea and Japan have implemented the same policy towards Chinese travelers. This was also done by other countries such as the United States (US), Britain, France, Italy and Spain.
China’s rise in Covid-19 cases is considered not transparent. Where China stopped publication of case reports since December and narrowed the definition of Covid-19 death.
This also led to protests from the WHO. However, it should be noted that similar restrictions have been carried out by all countries, when the Covid-19 outbreak was severe in 2020 to 2021.