A security guard watches over the empty international arrivals channel at Beijing airport on Nov. 6 after China banned arrivals from France and a host of other countries. (Photo: AFP)
Beijing has added France to a growing list of countries whose citizens have been banned from entering its territory amid the latest outbreak of the coronavirus, with health officials gearing up for a long winter in the northern hemisphere.
The disease has spread rapidly in Europe and in other countries where temperatures are falling heading into Christmas, prompting officials in Beijing to reimpose travel restrictions.
Last week Beijing announced that entry to travelers from Britain, Belgium, India and the Philippines would also be denied. Similar measures had already been announced for Ethiopia, Italy and Russia.
New daily cases in France have topped 40,000 while British rates have also risen sharply in recent weeks and are nearing 25,000 a day, prompting further lockdowns.
Italy, Russia and Belgium are reporting similar figures, although confirmed cases in Ethiopia have fallen dramatically into the hundreds. Numbers in the Philippines have also fallen steadily since peaking in August but remain stubbornly high at around 1,500 a day.
China's ban includes foreign nationals holding valid residence visas for work, permits for family reunions and valid permits for personal matters.
In its China briefing, Dezan & Associates said Chinese embassies and consulates would no longer issue certified health declaration forms for such travelers.
“Just weeks after China relaxed its initial international travel ban, its authorities have withdrawn the policy as a necessary precaution in combating the pandemic situation and mitigating the spread of Covid-19 within its own borders," it said.
“Several countries around the world appear to be in the middle of another wave of new coronavirus outbreaks or have been unable to stabilize the local spread of infection.”
China, where the Covid-19 virus first emerged, currently has the pandemic under control with few reported cases. It described the latest measures as “fair and reasonable,” adding it was drawing on the experiences of other countries.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Chinese embassies in relevant countries would publish timely notices in accordance with the evolving situation, and he hinted other countries may soon be affected by the latest travel restrictions.
But this could also mean that the Chinese government could reopen the border if the situation gets better, observers said.
European countries have been sharply criticized for failing to impose harsh restrictions, which has contributed to a resurgence of the virus.
Harsh lockdowns in Australia, particularly in the southeast state of Victoria, during the southern winter have resulted in caseloads falling to almost zero. Those lockdowns are now easing, although heavy restrictions on entering and leaving the country remain.
Worldwide there have been 49.2 million confirmed cases of the Covid-19 virus. Of those 32.4 million have recovered while 1.24 million people have died.