Have Chinese-made vaccine, will travel

Taipei: In the latest move by China to promote its coronavirus vaccines and flex its soft power, Beijing will offer some foreigners inoculated with Chinese-made doses “conveniences” when applying for entry into the country.

Notices of the new policy to “resume people-to-people exchanges between China and other countries” have been issued by Chinese embassies or consulates in the Philippines, Japan, Thailand, Germany, Italy, the United States, Israel and India. The announcements said China would simplify the application process for those with certificates proving they had been given a Chinese vaccine.

The idea mimics interest in some other countries to develop so-called vaccine passports, or a mechanism for verifying and offering certain privileges to vaccinated travellers.

A Southern China Airlines flight from Guangzhou, arrives at Vancouver International Airport in Canada. Travelling to China will become easier with proof of Chinese vaccination.Credit:AP

It also is in keeping with Beijing’s ongoing efforts to use its coronavirus vaccines for diplomacy, to extend spheres of influence and deepen economic ties. These overtures, however, have hit snags, with some countries hesitant to take the Chinese-made vaccines due to Beijing’s lack of transparency around their development.

On Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian did not specify how the application process would be streamlined.

At his daily press conference Zhao said: “Our proposal to facilitate the travel of those who have been inoculated with Chinese vaccines is made after thoroughly considering the safety and efficacy of Chinese vaccines. We believe this is a meaningful exploration of facilitating international travel once mass vaccination has been achieved. It is not linked to the recognition of Chinese vaccines.”

A notice on the embassy’s website in the United States said foreign nationals and their family members visiting China to resume “work and production in various fields” could apply. In India and the Philippines, notices on the embassy websites said those interested could prepare their applications “in accordance with requirements before the pandemic”. A statement issued by the embassy in Germany said applicants would not need to provide invitation letters by provincial foreign affairs or commercial departments.

The Chinese government will promote travel to China for those vaccinated with a Chinese vaccine.Credit:Getty Images

China has so far approved four vaccines for emergency use – for the most part exporting them to developing countries. Its latest vaccine, approved last week, was developed by Anhui Zhifei Longcom Biopharmaceutical and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The final phase trials are underway in Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Indonesia, according to a statement from the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

For most of the last year, China has maintained tight border entry requirements, barring most foreigners, including journalists, students and business travellers. Those allowed entry are required to quarantine for at least two weeks and often require special approval.

The Foreign Ministry also said the criteria for emergency humanitarian visas, such as visiting family, attending funerals or seeing critically ill relatives, would be expanded.

Some countries in Europe, such as Spain and Greece, are pushing for the European Union to develop digital “vaccine passports” to ease entry for visitors – and ensure tourism revenue in the approaching northern summer. Others have pushed back on the idea, over concerns that it would create an unfair, two-tiered system between the vaccinated and unvaccinated. Israel, where a massive effort is underway to reach herd immunity through inoculation, has already begun issuing a “green pass” with which vaccinated people can enter certain establishments.

Along with short-term concerns about inequalities between European countries, countries across Africa, where coronavirus vaccine access is either non-existent or extremely limited, are concerned that inoculation travel requirements could lead to years of discrimination against their populations. While the United States and other western countries have monopolised much of the world’s existing vaccine supplies, China has stepped in to offer its vaccine version to countries unable to compete for western-made vials.

The Washington Post

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