China Closes Its Borders to Foreign Nationals over Coronavirus Fears

A traveler from Australia is tested for coronavirus after arriving in Shanghai, China, March 21, 2020. (China Daily/Reuters)

China is temporarily closing its borders to all foreigners in an attempt to prevent the resurgence of coronavirus, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced Thursday.

“The suspension is a temporary measure that China is compelled to take in light of the outbreak situation and the practices of other countries,” a statement announcing the decision read. “China will stay in close touch with all sides and properly handle personnel exchanges with the rest of the world under the special circumstances. The above-mentioned measures will be calibrated in light of the evolving situation and announced accordingly.”

Beginning at midnight on March 28, the ban affects even foreign nationals with visas or residence permits. Diplomatic visas will not be affected.

The move comes after Beijing has reported more than 500 imported cases of the coronavirus, despite China being the epicenter of the outbreak starting in Wuhan in December. In January, Chinese officials suspended all travel in and out of Hubei province, home to Wuhan, which locked down nearly 60 million people in an effort to slow the virus.

China’s reported numbers have slowed since, and on March 19, health officials reported no new cases in a 24-hour period for the first time since the pandemic began.

But the Chinese Communist Party has drawn scrutiny for its initial handling of the virus, after it suppressed claims of coronavirus’s human-to-human transmission and gagged labs that discovered the novel outbreak resembled the deadly SARS virus of 2002-2003.

Beijing has also delivered faulty test kits to European countries and started a propaganda campaign to suggest the virus originated in the U.S., with some claims by state-run media being parroted by mainstream western outlets.

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