NEW DELHI: The Chinese embassy here on Thursday said that China has decided to temporarily suspend the entry into the country by foreign nationals from India holding valid visas or residence permits in view of the coronavirus pandemic.
Indian government sources said the announcement made by the Chinese embassy indicated that the measure was a temporary one and that it is not India specific as measures have been initiated in respect of several other countries.
The Chinese embassy said in a note, "Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is hereby announced that China has decided to temporarily suspend the entry into China by foreign nationals in India holding valid Chinese visas or residence permits."
"The Chinese embassy/consulates in India will not stamp the health declaration forms for the holders of the above-mentioned categories of visa or residence permits," it said.
The government sources said the action taken is to temporarily suspend existing visas only and that the notice indicated that future visa applications have not been banned.
Visas issued after November 3 are valid for travel to China, they added.
The sources said the government of India is in touch with the Chinese side to facilitate essential travel of Indians to and from China.
"The reason behind the measure seems to be Chinese concerns on possible rise in COVID-19 cases globally, aggravated due to the advent of autumn and winter in the Northern Hemisphere," said a source.
The note, posted on the website of the embassy, clarified that foreigners holding Chinese "diplomatic, service, courtesy and C visas are not affected."
"Foreigners with emergency or humanitarian needs to visit China, can submit visa application to the Chinese embassy/consulates in India. The entry into China with visas issued after November 3rd is not affected," it said.
The embassy said the "suspension" is a temporary measure that China has to adopt to deal with the current pandemic.
"China will make further adjustment and announcement in accordance with the ongoing pandemic situation in a timely manner," it said.
Meanwhile, a number of flights to China planned by India stands cancelled after Beijing decided to temporarily suspend the entry into the country, dashing the plans of some 2,000 Indian professionals to return to their places of work in Chinese cities.
The notice affected the plans by about 2,000 Indian professionals and their families who have been trying hard to return to back to their work and businesses.
Their hopes were brightened recently when China lifted the ban on the visas and resident permits which encouraged many of them to finalise plans to return.
India announced early this week plans to operate Vande Bharat Mission (VBM) flights to China from Delhi on November 13, 20, 27 and December 4 to facilitate their return.
Officials here said the flights now stand cancelled as a result of China's move to suspend visas.
Chinese embassies in the UK and the Philippines have made similar announcements.
India has so far operated six VBM flights and the last one operated in Delhi-Wuhan sector.
Twenty-three passengers on that flight tested positive including 19 of them for asymptomatic symptoms.
Asked for the reason for the sudden action, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a media briefing here on Thursday that "the notices issued by the Chinese embassies in the relevant countries have made it clear that this is a temporary response necessitated by the current situation of COVID-19".
"Learning from other countries' practices and taking into consideration the evolving epidemic situation, we have adjusted measures concerning pertinent travellers to China," he said.
"This is a reasonable and legitimate move consistent with international customary practices, and I believe it will be understood by all. The Chinese embassies in relevant countries will publish timely notices in accordance with the evolving situation," he said.