China to Reopen to Foreigners, but There's a Significant Catch

Visitors will have to be vaccinated with a Chinese-made product
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 17, 2021 4:27 PM CDT
China to Reopen to Foreigners, but There's a Significant Catch
A nurse gives a shot of the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine developed by Beijing Institute of Biological Products to a man in Nantong, in east China's Jiangsu province, last month.   (Chinatopix via AP)

Chinese embassies in about 20 nations have announced that visas are starting to be processed for foreigners who want to visit again. The guidelines for each country vary, but the usual rules about having to quarantine and test negative for COVID-19 first will be in place, the Guardian reports. But China is adding a wrinkle that could make the issue moot for many people: No one will be allowed in unless they've been given a Chinese-made coronavirus vaccine. Not even foreign vaccines approved by the World Health Organization will suffice. So while China has told Australians they can visit, for example, they're effectively left out because no Chinese vaccine is approved for use in Australia. Those who don't meet that requirement might still be allowed into China, per CNBC, but the threshold for approving their reason for the trip will be higher, and they might need certain documents others won't.

People from several countries invited by China are in the same predicament. Chinese vaccines are approved for use in Philippines, Thailand, and Iraq. The country has produced five vaccines, and 34 nations have approved at least one of them, per CNBC. By comparison, 72 countries have endorsed Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine. One reason for the difference could be the fact that less data have been available for Chinese products. The government's decision gives the appearance of pressuring other countries to approve China's vaccines. "Vaccine nationalism is a possibility that cannot be ruled out given the absence of further explanation," an academic in Singapore said. A Chinese government spokesman said that's not the case. "Our proposal … is made after thoroughly considering the safety and efficacy of Chinese vaccines," he said. "This is an arrangement made by the Chinese side unilaterally. It is a different thing from vaccine recognition." (More China stories.)

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