China’s post-pandemic travel plans slowed by eight-week wait for visas to Europe
China's abrupt removal of Covid curbs caught certain embassies and consulates in the country off guard and understaffed, making it difficult to issue visas and delaying the restart of international economic operations, according to a report
New Delhi: China’s abrupt removal of Covid curbs caught certain embassies and consulates in the country off guard and understaffed, making it difficult to issue visas and delaying the restart of international economic operations., according to a report.
While visa applications could be completed sometimes in a matter of days prior to the pandemic, some Chinese executives are waiting as long as six to eight weeks to get business visas to travel to Europe, Joerg Wuttke, head of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China, told Bloomberg.
According to the report, Schengen-area countries are most affected, in particular Germany, which counts China as a key trading partner.
Chinese tourists wishing to travel to Europe have also faced visa delays, forcing some to cancel or rearrange plans.
Wuttke attributed the bottlenecks with German visa approvals to a lack of resources to handle the spike in demand.
“They simply have no staffing to actually cope with the introduction again,” the report quoted him as saying.
Delays as companies scale back operations
Some countries outsource extensive elements of their visa handling to companies like VFS Global, BLS International and TLScontact. Several of those scaled back operations during the years of Covid curbs, when demand for international travel was almost non-existent.
German embassy spokesperson in Beijing said closures of VFS centres for almost three years were responsible for the delays.
“Reopening of the centres at each location requires thorough preparation,” he told Bloomberg, adding that Beijing operations should be ready to restart in mid-February.
With China still imposing Covid-related entry requirements, Germany is reciprocating with steps of its own, including a rule for travellers from the Asian country to take Covid tests.
The embassy spokesman said tourism trips from China to Germany aren’t permitted. Last month, Germany advised against non-essential travel to China due to the number of infections in the country.
Christmas, Lunar New Year compounded matters
Compounding matters, China’s Covid policy reversal coincided with Christmas and the Lunar New Year holiday, when businesses largely shut down and millions travelled back hometowns to herald the Year of the Rabbit amid fears of a fresh COVID-19 spike.
Many millions hadn’t been home during the years of restrictions.
China rang in Lunar New Year on 22 January with large gatherings and movement of people across the country. This was the first large-scale festive celebration since the pandemic broke out three years ago.
China in a major shift of its coronavirus response policies had scrapped quarantine for international travellers from 8 January as it reopened its borders and came out of international isolation after nearly three years.
With inputs from agencies
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