In another significant step in reopening China to the outside world, the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement Tuesday that it will begin reissuing all types of visas o foreigners from March 15.
Beijing ended its zero-COVID policy last December, and began opening borders the next month.
Areas in China that required no visas prior to the pandemic will revert to visa-free entry, the ministry said.
Visa-free entry will be resumed for foreigners from Hong Kong and Macao, and countries within the ASEAN group.
It also said Beijing will lift restrictions for various locations, such as Hainan island cruise ships passing through Shanghai ports.
Visas issued before March 28, 2020 that are still valid will also allow entry to China.
China also added another 40 countries to its list for which group tours are allowed, but that still excludes Japan, South Korea, Australia and the US.
New Premier Li Qiang said on Monday that China took less than two months to achieve a “smooth transition” in its response to COVID-19 and that the country’s strategies and measures had been completely correct.
Other nations began reopening their borders earlier, but China only relaxed its strict COVID strategy after protests broke out in many parts of the country.
The relaxing of containment measures led to a sudden rise in COVID cases. Beijing stopped quarantine requirements for visitors, but visa restrictions were still kept in place.
It also then resumed issuing Chinese passports for “tourism” or “overseas visits of friends.”
According to figures from the UN’s World Tourism Organization, China had 65.7 million international travelers in 2019, before the pandemic. That fgure had dropped to 8 million the following year.