BEIJING (AFP) - China has reached an agreement with South Korea to set up a "fast track" for business people to travel between the countries as Beijing looks to ease an entry ban on foreigners imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
With the deadly disease spreading globally, China last month blocked almost all foreigners from entering as the authorities fretted over cases being imported from abroad.
Beijing is also in talks with other countries including Singapore to set up a similar channel to stabilise economic cooperation and ensure supply chains run smoothly, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a press briefing on Tuesday (April 21).
The virus, first discovered in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December, has since spread like wildfire and killed more than 167,000 people worldwide, with cases reported in over 190 countries.
But there are signs that China is looking to relax some of its controls as the measures used to curb the pandemic place a huge economic strain on nations worldwide.
"China is in talks with relevant countries to set up fast-track channels allowing... business and technical personnel to travel," Mr Geng told reporters.
"The purpose is to stabilise important economic and trade cooperation... and to ensure the safe and smooth operation of international industrial and supply chains," he added.
Beijing has reached a consensus with Seoul on the fast-track channel and both sides are working to implement the plan, he said.
China and Singapore have also discussed personnel exchanges via video conference, he said, but declined to elaborate on which other countries the authorities were negotiating with.
The Asian giant has tightened controls on returning travellers and drastically cut international flight routes after largely bringing its virus outbreak under control in recent weeks.
There are signs that the dramatic steps are working, with only four new imported cases of coronavirus reported on Tuesday.