China reopens borders to foreign tourists for the first time since the Covid outbreak

KATHMANDU, March 14: The biggest easing of restrictions comes after Beijing declared victory over the virus and pulled out of a zero-covid strategy that has hurt its economy.

Valid visas issued before China closed off to the world on March 28, 2020 will be accepted starting March 15.

Visa-free entry will resume on Hainan Island and Shanghai for cruise ships.

Tour groups from Hong Kong and Macao will be allowed to enter visa-free, while overseas Chinese consular offices will also resume processing visa applications.

The removal of the latest cross-border restrictions imposed to deal with Covid marks an important step towards the resumption of normal life in post-pandemic China.

Tens of millions of international visitors came to China each year before the pandemic, and its tourism industry has been hit hard by strict anti-Covid measures.

But the country can expect a significant increase in international arrivals after it reopens its borders, analysts say.

Chinese citizens will also be able to travel in tour groups to 60 countries, up from 20 previously.

China said its gross domestic product grew just 3% in 2022, the worst in nearly half a century.

For the current year, Beijing has set a 5% target and new Premier Li Qiang says the world’s second-largest economy is stabilizing and rebounding again.

The zero covid policy lifted in December sparked rare protests against China’s leader Xi Jinping.

Since then, he has solidified his grip on power in the Communist Party and secured a record third term as president.

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