China bars arrivals from France over virus fears

Beijing on Thursday banned foreign arrivals from France and a host of other countries, the latest in a growing number of entry bans as China closes itself off from a world still battling the coronavirus pandemic.

Covid-19 first emerged in central China late last year, but Beijing has largely brought its outbreak under control through tight travel restrictions and stringent health measures for anyone entering the country.

In March, as the virus ripped across the world, China shut its borders to all foreign nationals, although it had gradually eased the restrictions in recent months.

But in a sharp about-turn, Chinese embassies in countries including Britain, Belgium, India and the Philippines said this week that Beijing had decided to “temporarily suspend” entries by non-Chinese nationals.

France was the latest to join that list, with a statement on the Chinese embassy website dated Thursday saying non-Chinese arrivals would be barred from entering the country.

Chinese embassies in Russia, Italy and Ethiopia also announced similar measures.

Beijing defended the new restrictions on Thursday as “reasonable and fair” and said it was “drawing on the practices of many countries”.

China has also recently tightened requirements for travellers from several other countries, making entry much more difficult and sparking complaints that the strict new rules represent an effective ban on entry.

In France, officials are hoping a new coronavirus lockdown will bring down soaring numbers of infections, with new daily cases topping 40,000 over the past week, while Italy has imposed strict new restrictions on freedom of movement in four regions.

Russia has listed a total of nearly 1.7 million infections and more than 29,000 deaths. (AFP)