China eases visa rules for recipients of its vaccines

FILE PHOTO: A health worker gets vaccinated with Sinovac Biotech's Coronavac on the first day of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) inoculation drive in the Philippines, at the Lung Center of the Philippines, Quezon City, Metro Manila, March 1, 2021. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez/File Photo

BEIJING (Reuters) - China said on Monday it will simplify visa applications for foreign nationals who have been inoculated with Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccines, its latest small step towards normalising international travel.

Vaccinated passengers travelling to China by air will still need to show negative tests as under current rules, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said, according to an official transcript of a daily briefing. The transcript did not provide further details on how visa applications would be simplified.

Travellers “should abide by China’s relevant regulations on quarantine and observation after entering China,” Zhao said, adding that China was willing to carry out mutual recognition of vaccination with other nations.

The Chinese embassy in the Philippines said earlier on Monday China would return to pre-pandemic visa requirements for those fully vaccinated with Chinese vaccines. On Saturday China announced streamlined visa procedures for vaccinated foreigners entering Chinese-ruled Hong Kong.

China has been exporting its vaccines mostly to emerging countries. This outreach prompted the United States, Australia, Japan and top global vaccine producer India to announce plans to distribute vaccines in Asia in a competition that has become known as “vaccine diplomacy”.

China has largely brought the coronavirus under control at home since it first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019. The country recorded just five new infections on Sunday, all imported cases.

To stave off the risk of imported cases causing a resurgence in local infections, China restricts entry by foreign nationals to certain purposes, such as work, and those that are allowed in still have to undergo quarantine.

Reporting by Beijing Newsroom and Karen Lema in Manila; additional reporting by Tom Daly; Editing by Martin Petty and Peter Graff