• Associated Press

China suspends visas for South Koreans in retaliation

AP Photo/Lee Jin-man, File
A woman arriving from China enters a COVID-19 testing center at the Incheon International Airport In Incheon, South Korea, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023.

China suspends visas for South Koreans in virus retaliation

BEIJING (AP) — China suspended visas Tuesday for South Koreans to come to the country for tourism or business in apparent retaliation for COVID-19 testing requirements on Chinese travelers.

A brief notice posted online by the Chinese Embassy in Seoul said the ban would apply until South Korea lifted its “discriminatory measures on entrance by China” to the country.

No other details were given, although China has threated to retaliate against countries that require travelers from China to show a negative test result for COVID-19 taken within the previous 48 hours.

China requires the same measures for travelers entering the country.

Beijing has been accused by the World Health Organization of withholding data on the state of the outbreak in China, and around a dozen countries have followed the U.S. in requiring negative tests for travelers coming from China.

China abruptly reversed its strict pandemic containment requirements last month in response to what it says was the changing nature of the outbreak. That came after three years of lockdowns, quarantines and mass testing that prompted protests on the street in Beijing and other major cities not seen in three decades.

The most optimistic forecasts say China’s business and consumer activity might revive as early as the first quarter of this year. But before that happens, entrepreneurs and families face a painful squeeze from a surge in virus cases that has left employers without enough healthy workers and kept wary customers away from shopping malls, restaurants, hair salons and gyms.

The abrupt decision by President Xi Jinping’s government to end controls that shut down factories and kept millions of people at home will move up the timeline for economic recovery, but might disrupt activity this year as businesses scramble to adapt, forecasters say.