China reopens to foreign students after more than two years

Allowing international students to return doesn't mean China has relaxed its strict Covid-19 control measures. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - China will allow foreign students to enter the country for the first time in more than two years, easing restrictions imposed after the outbreak of Covid-19.

Foreign nationals holding a valid Chinese residence permit for study or an Apec business travel card will be allowed to enter China starting Wednesday (Aug 24), the nation's US embassy said in a statement posted on WeChat late Tuesday.

Similar statements were made by China's embassies in Japan and India.

Allowing international students to return doesn't mean China has relaxed its strict Covid-19 control measures, or that the government has abandoned its dynamic zero-Covid policy, the state-run Global Times reported.

Mr Lu Hongzhou, head of the Third People's Hospital of Shenzhen, said further shortening the quarantine period for inbound travellers in the short term is unlikely, the report added.

China still has the world's toughest entry requirements, even after easing rules in June.

Arriving travellers need to spend seven days in a quarantine facility and then monitor their health at home for a further three days. Flights to the country are also limited.

The country welcomed 492,185 foreign students in 2018, low compared to the more than 1 million enrolled in the 2019-2020 school year in the US, where international education is a significant industry.

Most of China’s students came from South Korea, followed by Thailand and Pakistan.

China’s latest Covid-19 wave – which triggered a raft of lockdowns and restrictions across several provinces – appears to be easing as flare-ups in tourist hotspots seeded by summer vacation travel ebb.

The nation reported 1,748 infections for Monday, down from a peak of more than 3,400 a week ago.  

China managed to wipe out cases for vast swathes of 2020 and 2021, before being challenged by more contagious variants. Still, President Xi Jinping’s administration remains wedded to Covid Zero, with Beijing unwilling to endure the scale of death seen in other nations. 

Officially, China has seen just over 5,200 fatalities since the pandemic started, versus more than 1 million in the US, a central fact in officials’ rhetoric about the superiority of the country’s approach.

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