China has banned many non-Chinese travelers from entering the country under tough new border restrictions imposed as a second wave of COVID sweeps across the globe.
The ban applies to the U.K. as a second lockdown begins and also applies to citizens from Belgium, India, and the Philippines. It has been described as a “temporary response” due to the “current situation of COVID-19”.
Britain is among the hardest-hit countries in the world, recording a total of 1,099,059 positive virus cases and nearly 48,000 deaths. The Chinese Embassy in the UK said in a statement: “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, China has decided to temporarily suspend entry into China by non-Chinese nationals in the U.K. holding visas or residence permits still valid at the time of this announcement. The Chinese Embassy and Consulates in the UK will no longer issue a Certified Health Declaration Form for the above-mentioned personnel.”
Entry by holders of diplomatic, service, courtesy visas will not be affected, the embassy said. “Foreign nationals visiting China for emergency needs may apply for visas at the Chinese Embassy or Consulates. Entry by non-Chinese nationals in the U.K. with visas issued after November 3 will not be affected.
“The suspension is a temporary response necessitated by the current situation of Covid-19. The above-mentioned measures will be assessed in accordance with the evolving situation and any adjustment will be announced accordingly.”
The same statement appeared on the website for the Chinese embassy in Belgium, which the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control says has the highest number of coronavirus infections per 100,000 people in Europe.
Belgium was put into a second national lockdown last week as scientists and officials said the government’s already tough restrictions were failing to work and that deaths were doubling every six days. According to the latest data from the World Health Organization (WHO) there have been 452,447 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country, with 12,126 deaths.
The embassy in the Philippines, which has among the largest number of cases in south-east Asia, also confirmed the travel ban today. The Philippines has recorded 388,137 confirmed cases and 7,367 deaths, the WHO said. The statement also appears on the website for the Chinese embassy in India, where there have been 8,364,086 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 124,315 deaths.
New rules for those who are allowed into China have also been announced as Beijing desperately attempts to keep up its containment of the outbreak, which has seen China’s economy begin to recover.
As of Friday, all passengers from the U.S., Germany, the Czech Republic, and France must have a negative COVID and antibody test result within 48 hours of traveling. Passengers from Denmark are subject to the rule from November 7 and those traveling from Australia, Singapore and Japan will be subject to the same rule starting on November 8.
Officials have said that the antibody test is to guard against false negatives in nucleic acid tests. A negative test for the antibody immunoglobulin M, or IgM, the body’s first response to the virus, would indicate that a person has never been exposed or that they have been infected and recovered.
Despite attacks on China’s early virus response, in particular attempts to cover up the outbreak and silence health workers who tried to speak out, according to the WHO, there have been 92,077 confirmed cases in China and just 4,747 deaths. The Chinese government has presented its efforts as hugely successful in containing COVID-19 and has denied any coverup.