China retaliates against South Korea and Japan over ‘discriminatory’ COVID-19 restrictions

China, the final significant economy to reopen its borders after three years of isolation, has begun taking revenge against South Korea and Japan for putting COVID-19 curbs on travellers from those countries.

According to the Chinese embassy in Seoul, Beijing has stopped issuing short-term visas to visitors from South Korea. On January 10, however, the Kyodo news agency in Japan claimed that Beijing had taken similar action against Japan.

The final significant restriction of a “zero-COVID” policy, which China quickly started to abandon in early December in response to historic protests, was lifted on Sunday, January 8.

The frequent lockdowns, relentless testing and various other movement curbs since early 2020 have brought the world’s second-largest economy to a standstill and caused widespread distress.

With the virus now growing at fast rate all around the country, China has stopped publishing daily infection tallies. It has been reporting five or fewer deaths a day since the policy U-turn, figures that have been disputed by the World Health Organisation .

The United States, South Korea, France and other countries introduced testing requirements in response to China’s COVID outbreak.

Although Beijing also demands negative COVID test results from anyone landing in China, officials last week threatened retaliation against countries mandating tests for people coming from China.

China’s embassy in Seoul said on its official WeChat account it will adjust its latest visa rules subject to the lifting of South Korea’s “discriminatory entry restrictions” against China.

China has also told travel agencies that it has stopped issuing new visas in Japan, Kyodo said, quoting multiple travel industry sources.

The retaliation against South Korea and Japan was not the only COVID conflict brewing in China.

State media has also taken a swipe at Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) over the price for its COVID treatment Paxlovid.

Pfizer’s Chief Executive Albert Bourla said on Monday the company was in discussions with Chinese authorities about a price for Paxlovid, but not over licensing a generic version in China.

“It is not a secret that U.S. capital forces have already accumulated quite a fortune from the world via selling vaccines and drugs, and the U.S. government has been coordinating all along,” nationalist tabloid Global Times said in an editorial

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