China’s Foreign Ministry announced Friday the temporary suspension of all entries into the country from Saturday.
The entry restriction came as the coronavirus pandemic hits over 540,000 people worldwide and the United States upstaged China and Italy as the new epicentre of the virus.
” It is a temporary measure that China is compelled to take in light of the outbreak situation and the practices of other countries,” the foreign ministry said in a statement..
The restriction affects foreign nationals holding valid visas or residence permits.
However, it exempted entry with diplomatic service, courtesy or C visas.
Also exempted from the entry ban are foreign nationals visiting China for economic, trade, scientific or technological activities, or out of emergency humanitarian needs.
The latter group of visitors may apply for visas at Chinese embassies or consulates.
The Foreign Ministry said entry by foreign nationals with APEC business travel cards will be suspended as well.
The ministry also curbed flights by Chinese and foreign airlines.
Airlines are permitted only one flight per week and flights must not be more than 75% full.
China took the dramatic step to restrict entry into the country with almost all its new coronavirus cases now coming from abroad.
Out of 55 new cases across China on Thursday, 54 of them came from overseas.
The country’s National Health Commission reported 81,340 confirmed cases and 3,292 deaths on Friday.
The commission classed 565 of the confirmed cases as “imported” .
The cases were either foreigners coming into China, or returning Chinese nationals.
In Hubei – the province where the outbreak began – there were no new confirmed or suspected cases on Thursday.
Meanwhile, China will ease on 8 April, the lockdown in provincial capital Wuhan, which began in January.