The UK government does not have any plans to impose Covid restrictions on arrivals from China despite a surge in cases, Downing Street has said.
The US is said to be looking at new restrictions on Chinese arrivals after Beijing announced it was reopening its borders in January after almost three years of strict controls.
Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan and South Korea have also responded to the latest Chinese wave of infections by requiring negative virus tests for visitors from China.
Asked if the British government was considering something similar, the No 10 spokesperson said: “That’s not something we’re looking at.”
Rishi Sunak’s spokesperson added: “We will continue to monitor cases of Covid across the UK. You will see they are still at a relatively low level, but we will continue to ensure we have the necessary surveillance in place.”
China has said it will resume issuing visas and passports in a big step away from the controls that isolated the country – a move which could see millions of citizens going abroad for January’s Lunar New Year holiday.
It adds to abrupt changes that are rolling back some of the world’s strictest anti-virus controls as president Xi Jinping’s government tries to reverse an economic slump.
Rules that confined millions of people to their homes kept China’s infection rate low, but fuelled public frustration and dampened economic growth.
Authorities have softened its stance on its stringent “zero-Covid” policy by lifting restrictions after unprecedented nationwide protests against the communist government in November.
But some countries are worried about the potential for cases to spread quickly, as travel services companies reported international ticket bookings and searches for visa information spiked after Tuesday’s announcement.
India’s health ministry said it was stepping up surveillance of cases from overseas following the recent rise in Covid cases in China.
“There are mounting concerns in the international community on the ongoing Covid-19 surges in China and the lack of transparent data, including viral genomic sequence data,” US officials said in a statement.
However, Wang Wenbin, spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry, said western nations and media outlets were “hyping up” the issue and “distorting” the country’s Covid policies.
The National Immigration Administration of China said it will start taking applications on 8 January for passports for tourists to go abroad. It said it will resume issuing approval for tourists and businesspeople to visit Hong Kong, a territory with its own border controls.
The agency also said the government will “gradually resume” allowing in foreign visitors and gave no indication when full-scale tourist travel from abroad might be allowed.
Health experts and economists expected the ruling Communist Party to keep restrictions on travel into China until at least mid-2023 while it carries out a campaign to vaccinate millions of elderly people. Experts say that is necessary to prevent a public health crisis.