COVID-19 : WHICH COUNTRIES STILL KEEP THEIR BORDERS CLOSED?
- Covid mask in Taiwan flag -
More than two years after the start of the coronavirus pandemic, in March 2020, New Zealand finally reopened its borders completely on August 1. Some few countries, on the other hand, still live in a vacuum, partially.
After almost two and a half years, Japan opened up its borders to visa-free international travel on the 11th October 2022, and you can keep up to date with other entry requirements like pre-departure PCRs or triple vaccination exemption. A lot has happened over the last few years in Japan - all foreigners need to take a general look at some of the upgrades, updates and travel news, as the promised date fast approaches.
The Land of the Rising Sun remained completely closed for nearly two years in an attempt to keep Covid-19 at bay. According to the Foreign Affairs, the restrictions began to be relaxed on March 1.
From this date, it again became possible to “request entry into Japanese territory for a short or long stay”, provided that it is “justified by a professional reason (work visa, students)” . However, these authorizations are only issued to people who can “justify a certificate of reception or supervision by an organization located on Japanese territory (company, university, etc.).
Subsequently, on June 1, the Japanese authorities authorized a quota of 20,000 entries per day for tourists. Japan has gradually issued visas, on the condition that people wishing to go there "be part of an organized group directly or in connection with a tourist agency established in Japan which can vouch for the time of proceeding with the request. visa". To date, the country still applied these rules and was therefore only partially open.
CHINA AND TAIWAN
The zero-tolerance approach to COVID-19 by the PRC, Hong Kong SAR, and Macau SAR governments severely impacts travel and access to public services.
All travelers should prepare to be tested for COVID-19 and to quarantine at a government-designated location for an extended duration upon arrival to the PRC, Hong Kong SAR, or Macau SAR. While in quarantine, health authorities will test travelers as often as daily for COVID-19 and will not permit travelers to leave their rooms. Travelers who test positive during this quarantine time may be transferred to a government-designated medical facility. (October 20, 2022)
Tourists have not set foot on Chinese soil since March 2020. According to Foreign Affairs, only “foreigners who need to visit China for an urgent reason can apply for visas from embassies and consulates”. Even in this case, the issuance of such a document is not guaranteed since it is “at the sole discretion of the Chinese authorities”.
Those who manage to obtain this authorization must undergo “two PCR tests within 48 hours before boarding, in different laboratories”. A quarantine is also imposed on arrival.
Even Chinese nationals abroad are subject to heavy restrictions to be able to return to their country. A 21-day quarantine was imposed on them for more than two years, before being reduced to ten days (seven at the hotel and
three at home), on June 28.
Taiwanese regulations are not more flexible since to date entry is simply refused to foreign nationals. Foreign Affairs specifies that, since June 15, "only Taiwanese nationals, their spouses and minor children as well as holders of a residence permit (ARC, APRC, diplomatic card) or a visa issued for duly justified professional or humanitarian reasons (excluding tourism, for example).
Those who enter Taiwanese territory are subject to “a saliva PCR test upon landing in Taipei, as well as one or more antigen self-tests during quarantine”, which lasts three days. It is followed by four days of "self-monitoring" during which "a negative self-test of less than 48 hours allows you to go out for important reasons (to go to work, to do some basic shopping), but without going to places crowded audiences.
Of all the countries listed here, Turkmenistan takes the strictest position. Even today, it remains totally closed. Entry is prohibited to anyone from abroad, without exception.
The site of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs specifies that "no regular air link currently connects Turkmenistan to the rest of the world and the issuance of visas [...] has been suspended by the Turkmen authorities until further notice".
The extremely limited testing capacity makes it difficult to track the extent of the ongoing outbreak in North Korea. As of June 18, 4·6 million North Koreans (representing 18% of the population) had been diagnosed with fever since late April.
The situation has probably been exacerbated by low levels of vaccination. The country has turned down millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses from COVAX. Shipments have arrived from China, but nowhere near enough to cover the entire population.
According to a 2019 assessment by the World Food Programme, 11 million North Koreans were undernourished and in need of humanitarian assistance. Hazel Smith, of the Centre for Korea Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (London, UK), traces the crisis to the imposition of comprehensive UN sanctions against North Korea in 2017, in response to its continuing nuclear weapons programme. The country is struggling to produce essential medicines or maintain clean water supplies. “The agriculture sector in North Korea cannot function; it does not have the spare parts and fertiliser it needs, and it cannot do things like repair irrigation systems”, said Smith. She reckons government and household food stocks are likely to have diminished to nothing.
“If COVID-19 is spreading in North Korea, it will be having deleterious effects; the population's resilience is so low right now”, said Smith. She suggested that the regime might have refused offers of assistance from the international community to combat COVID-19 because it does not want to draw attention to the desperate conditions within the country. “In the end, this is an authoritarian government that will prioritise regime security over the well-being of its citizens”, said Smith.