China temporarily bans foreign nationals to curb the spread – and return – of coronavirus

Rasha Ali, USA TODAY

China is temporarily prohibiting foreign nationals from entering the country in efforts to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs made the announcement Thursday in a statement to their website saying the suspension will begin Saturday, March 28. There is currently no end date, though the agency said its measures will be "calibrated in light of the evolving situation and announced accordingly."

The temporary ban will restrict non-Chinese citizens from entering the country, even those who have a valid visa or residency permit. However, visas issued after the announcement will still be recognized, according to the statement. 

The announcement noted that some individuals are exempt, including diplomats and those providing necessary economic, scientific or technological services or emergency humanitarian support.Those groups may apply for visas at Chinese embassies or consulates in their countries, the Foreign Ministry said.

Though China has reported fewer new cases in recent days, that country got more "imported cases" as it relaxed travel constraints, observed Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Fauci has similar concerns about relaxing U.S. travel restrictions prematurely, warning that when the U.S. gets control of domestic cases, officials should "very carefully examine how you are going to release the constraints."

When should travel restrictions be lifted?  Fauci warns of 'imported' coronavirus cases once they are eased

Using travel bans has proven helpful in slowing the spread of the virus.

The former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lauded the United States' China travel ban, which was enacted in late January.

"The travel ban with China made a difference," Dr. Tom Frieden, the former CDC director and current head of global health initiative Resolve to Save Lives, told the USA TODAY editorial board and reporters.

Earlier this month, Vice President Mike Pence credited the administration's late January China travel restrictions as a big factor in helping avoid a Europe-like spread of coronavirus in the United States. Shortly afterward, the U.S. State Department issued its most severe warning ("Do not travel") for all of China after initially only advising against travel to regions hit hard by COVID-19.

Frieden said the travel ban "resulted in a significant delay in the number of people coming in with infection and because of that, that bought time in the U.S. to better prepare. And yet, that time wasn't optimally used."

All foreign nationals from China, Iran and certain European countries are barred from entering the United States.

On March 19, the State Department urged Americans not to travel abroad at all. One day later, the U.S. also closed its borders with Canada and Mexico, pausing nonessential travel to and from those countries.

Contributing: David Oliver

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: China temporarily bans foreign nationals due to coronavirus