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China reopens its borders to tourists

China began issuing visas to foreign tourists for the first time since the outbreak of the Covid-19 epidemic three years ago.

The main easing of restrictions comes after Beijing declared victory over the virus and reversed its “zero Covid” strategy aimed at eliminating the epidemic completely, which had hurt its economy.

Valid visas that were issued before China closed its doors to the world on March 28, 2020, will be valid starting from the 15th of this month.

And visa-free entry to Hainan Island and Shanghai for cruise ships will resume.

This allows tourist groups from Hong Kong and Macao to enter without a visa while Chinese consular offices abroad will resume accepting visa applications.

Tens of millions of international visitors came to China every year before the epidemic, but its tourism industry has been hit hard by the strict anti-COVID measures.

It will also allow Chinese citizens to travel in tourist groups to 60 countries, compared to 20 previously.

China said its gross domestic product grew by just 3 percent in 2022, the worst rate in nearly half a century.

For the current year, Beijing has set a target of 5 percent. New Premier Li Qiang said the world’s second-largest economy is stabilizing and recovering again.

The zero-Covid policy, which was lifted in December, has sparked rare protests against Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

But since then, he has consolidated his grip on power in the Communist Party and managed to win a third term as president.

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