China closes its borders to most foreign visitors to keep out coronavirus
China, the original epicenter of the novel coronavirus currently spreading around the globe, is now planning to bar most foreign visitors from entering the country over fears they could reignite the outbreak there.
The government of the People's Republic announced Thursday that it would make the move to curb the spread of coronavirus in China.
Though the current pandemic started in China, the number of locally-spread infections there has subsided recently, and new cases are now more frequently imported by visitors from other parts of the world.
"In view of the rapid spread of COVID-19 across the world, China has decided to temporarily suspend the entry into China by foreign nationals holding visas or residence permits still valid to the time of this announcement," China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
The order will take effect at midnight on Saturday, March 28, and an end date to the ban has not yet been announced.
The policy applies to foreign nationals with a variety of entry permissions, including transit visas. Diplomatic and service visas, however, are exempt from the ban.
According to the ministry, foreign nationals traveling to China "for necessary economic, trade, scientific or technological activities or out of emergency humanitarian needs" will be able to apply for new visas at Chinese embassies or consulates. "Entry by foreign nationals with visas issued after this announcement will not be affected," the ministry said.
The policy may be adjusted as the coronavirus pandemic progresses, but the ministry did not provide details about any possible changes.
Travelers have few options to fly from most locations to mainland China these days anyway, as international airlines have significantly curtailed or temporarily suspended many of their routes to Asia.
Currently, no U.S. airline has scheduled service to China, and connections through other cities abroad are limited.