China eases visa limits for visitors from Europe

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The new rules will allow European passport holders from 36 countries with a valid residence permit to apply for a Chinese visa without an invitation letter.
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China has eased entry restrictions for nationals from 36 European countries, months after thousands were left stranded when the country tightened border control and slashed flights to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Almost all foreign nationals were forbidden from entering the country when China imposed the measures in March, even those with Chinese work or residence permits or family living in the country.

But this week China said it would relax some of the requirements for Europeans hoping to re-enter.

The new rules will allow European passport holders from 36 countries — including France, Germany and the UK — with a valid residence permit to apply for a Chinese visa without an invitation letter, according to a notice by the Chinese Embassy in Berlin published on Wednesday.

Everyone returning to China has to reapply for their visa, since travel documents issued before the pandemic have been nullified. Previously, China had allowed only a small number of skilled foreign workers to return with special official invitation letters — a process which proved slow.

China’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Monday that European passport holders who qualify will now be allowed to “apply for a Chinese visa free of charge.”

Anyone coming from abroad is still subject to COVID-19 tests and a 14-day quarantine — and will still have to find a plane ticket, after China ordered a reduction in international air links at the end of March, and prices soared.

Some of these flight quotas are being lifted, with Air France allowed to operate three weekly flights from the end of August.

China has largely brought the spread of COVID-19 under control despite some local clusters in recent months.

Chinese health authority said on Wednesday that it received reports of 25 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on the Chinese mainland on Tuesday, including 16 imported cases and nine locally transmitted ones.

Six new imported cases were reported in Guangdong, four in Shanghai, and one each in Inner Mongolia, Zhejiang, Fujian, Shandong, Sichuan, and Shaanxi, the National Health Commission said. All of the nine new locally transmitted cases were reported in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

A woman in central China’s Hubei Province has again tested positive for COVID-19, months after her recovery from the disease, local authorities said.

The 68-year-old retiree, in the city of Jingzhou, was admitted to hospital after falling ill on August 9 and after COVID-19 nucleic acid test showed a positive result, said the Jingzhou COVID-19 epidemic control and prevention headquarters.

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