BEIJING: The Chinese capital is opening up to international travel after a gap of six months following the COVID-19 pandemic with an official announcement saying that flights from eight countries, including its 'all-weather ally' Pakistan, would be permitted from Thursday.
Beijing, which banned all international flights from March 23, on Wednesday announced plans to resume direct international flights beginning Thursday, signalling that the pandemic has been contained in the city.
Flights connecting Thailand, Cambodia and Pakistan in Asia; Greece, Denmark, Austria and Sweden in Europe and Canada in North America -- countries with relatively small numbers of imported cases -- will resume.
The first direct international flight to Beijing will depart from Cambodia's capital Phnom Penh on Thursday which will be operated by Air China.
Meanwhile, India operated its fourth 'Vande Bharat' flight to China on Wednesday.
The flight carried several Indian expats to Shanghai from Delhi and carried a large number of stranded Indians who wanted to go back home.
India has so far operated four 'Vande Bharat' flights to Shanghai and Guangzhou besides three earlier to Wuhan to airlift Indians, mostly students, stranded in the city when the virus was at its peak in February.
China is gradually permitting flights from different countries, including the US to Shanghai and other cities mainly to bring back its stranded citizens abroad.
After a break since late March, Beijing airports will open again to welcome passengers from eight countries directly into the city, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said.
Since March, all international flights bound for Beijing have been rerouted to other Chinese cities, in a bid to prevent the imported cases of coronavirus.
All international passengers entering Beijing like other cities in China would undergo 14-day collective quarantine periods for medical observations and take nucleic acid tests twice, Beijing health authority spokesman Gao Xiaojun told a press conference on Wednesday.
Beijing reported no new case for 26 consecutive days as of Wednesday, according to local health authorities.
It does not mean, however, that Beijing -- or other cities in the country -- could relax their prevention and control measures, as China has been seeing growing numbers of imported cases in recent months, according to some experts.
With the experience of dealing with resurgent outbreaks in cities like Beijing and Dalian of northeast China's Liaoning province, China is increasingly capable of handling imported cases, and COVID-19 prevention and control has become a regular task, Zeng Guang, former chief epidemiologist of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, told the Global Times.
The Indian Embassy here has taken up with the Chinese officials concerns of a large number of Indian students studying in China following an official announcement that foreign students and teachers will not return to their colleges until further notice.
Over 23,000 Indian students studied in different courses in Chinese universities and colleges as per the last year's data.
Of them, over 21,000 have enrolled to study MBBS.
Most of these students left for home during the Chinese New Year holidays earlier this year just around the time when the coronavirus pandemic began spreading in China.
It is reiterated that following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this year, the Chinese government had restricted the entry of foreigners into China, permitting such entry only in specific circumstances, an Indian Embassy press release said.
While some exceptions have since been made in some categories of foreigners who can enter China with fresh visa, foreign students have not been included in any of these categories, it said.
The Ministry of Education of China has published on its website that "all overseas students and teachers who have not received notice from their respective educational institutions will not return to their Colleges/Universities until further instructions".
The embassy has been taking up Indian students' concerns with Chinese authorities including the Ministry of Education, the press release said.
The response of the Chinese authorities regarding their stand on the return of foreign students to China is awaited, it said.
The same will be updated through a press release as soon as it is received, it said.
Meanwhile, Indian students are advised to monitor the website of the Indian embassy/consulates in China and our social media channels to remain updated about the evolving situation in respect of the return of foreign students to China.
Indian students are also advised to remain in touch with their respective universities/colleges, the press release said.
(With PTI Inputs)