US presses China on Covid-19 rules on diplomats

China also told the United States to stop "interfering" in the Olympics. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States said Thursday (Jan 27) it was asking China to loosen Covid-19 quarantine rules for diplomats after Beijing accused Washington of seeking to sabotage the Winter Olympics.

China, pursuing a zero Covid policy, has imposed mandatory quarantines of at least 14 days for inbound passengers and has repeatedly locked down major areas.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said that the United States has entered discussions with China over quarantine and testing rules that "run counter to diplomatic privileges and immunities."

"We've recommended what we think are a series of reasonable options that we would be consistent with Covid-19 mitigation measures and at the same time align with international diplomatic norms," Mr Price told reporters.

He said there was no change to the operating status of the embassy in Beijing despite the concerns.

China's state-run Global Times earlier warned against any authorisation by the State Department to let employees or families leave, calling China "the safest place in the world."

Such a departure "only serves to create panic, slander China's anti-epidemic work and disrupt China's successful hosting of the Winter Olympics," it said.

China also told the United States to stop "interfering" in the Olympics in a phone call on Wednesday Washington time between Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The United States has already announced that its diplomats will boycott the Games opening on Feb 4 due to human rights concerns, a step followed by several US allies.

The United States accuses China of carrying out genocide against the Uighurs, with more than one million of the mostly Muslim people held in camps. China denies the accusations.

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