China eases visa rules in Philippines for recipients of its vaccines

March 15, 2021 - 7:49 PM
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A worker unloads a box of Sinovac Biotech's CoronaVac vaccines against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) from a Chinese military aircraft at Villamor Air Base in Pasay, Metro Manila, Philippines, February 28, 2021. (Reutertes/Eloisa Lopez)

MANILA — China’s embassy in the Philippines said on Monday it would simplify visa applications for anyone in the country who has been inoculated with Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccines to allow regular travel to resume.

China will return to its pre-pandemic visa application requirements for those fully vaccinated with its home-grown vaccines, according to a statement by its embassy in Manila, which is among the first to announce the policy.

The Philippines kicked off its vaccination drive among health workers on March 1, using some of the 600,000 doses of Sinovac Biotech vaccine, CoronaVac, which were donated by the Chinese government.

It has purchased a further 25 million doses of CoronaVac to be delivered later. It is one of three coronavirus vaccines granted emergency use approval by Philippine regulators.

The Philippines has also been discussing a vaccine supply deal with China’s Sinopharm, which has also applied for emergency use authorization.

China on March 13 announced streamlined visa procedures for foreigners in Hong Kong “in view of resuming people-to-people exchanges between China and other countries in an orderly manner”.

Its embassy in Manila did not say why the simplified procedures were not extended to those receiving other coronavirus vaccines.

It said it would work with Philippine authorities to create a mechanism to ensure vaccination certificates were issued to facilitate travel.

China has engaged in vaccine diplomacy to boost its standing in Asia and around the world, including offering Chinese-made vaccine doses to participants at this year’s Tokyo Olympics and the Beijing 2022 Winter Games. —Reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by Martin Petty