Following the initial phase of the COVID-19 outbreak in China, when Beijing fiercely criticized other countries for blocking Chinese citizens at their borders, Chinese officials changed their mind about travel bans.
By March, China implemented among the strictest travel bans anywhere in the world, blocking even everlasting residency holders from entering.
Those restrictions stayed set up for six months, only easing in late September.
Now some restrictions are coming back. According to Reuters and Sixth Tone, in at least six countries, Chinese embassies have announced temporary bans on non-Chinese citizens traveling to China, citing risks from renewed surges in COVID-19 cases all over the world. These countries include:
The United Kingdom
Half of these countries - the kinds in Europe - have indeed seen alarming spikes in COVID-19 cases. Belgium has some of the most new cases per capita out of any country, according to the Financial Times tracker, and France and the U.K. both recently announced nationwide lockdowns on businesses to tamp down virus transmissions.
The British Chamber of Commerce in China didn’t appreciate what it called the “abruptness of the announcement and the blanket ban on entry,” and said that it could “await further clarification on when it'll be lifted.”
Selecting the other three are harder to make sense of initially. Sixth Tone highlights that “neither Bangladesh nor the Philippines is currently experiencing a dramatic uptick in cases.” India’s per-capita cases are only slightly higher than Bangladesh’s, and are less than at the end of September, in line with the latest data in the FT tracker.
“This is an acceptable and legitimate move regular with international customary practices,” a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said today (English, Chinese) of the non permanent travel bans.
More travel restrictions coming?
It could not be worth looking an excessive amount of into the choice of countries that China has put travel bans on, at least not yet, because various kinds of restrictions are being applied widely, and more could possibly be coming soon.
Negative COVID-19 and antibody tests before travel are necessary for “most if not absolutely all foreign and Chinese nationals flying” into China around this week, Sixth Tone reported.
The dual test requirements get started to use for passengers from America, France, Germany, and Thailand starting on November 5, and you will be extended to Australia, Singapore, and Japan from November 8, Reuters clarifies.
An unofficial travel restriction also came earlier this week when “China Southern Airlines, the country’s biggest carrier by passenger load, said it would suspend transit services for passengers embarking from 21 countries, mostly African and Parts of Asia and including India and the Philippines,” per Reuters.
However, as with the earlier reopening to foreign everlasting residents, we believe that it is notable that the U.S. has not been singled out for a travel ban by Beijing - and suspect that this is probable a calculated move by China in order to avoid escalating tensions amid the American election.