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COVID vaccines

China streamlines visas for own vaccine recipients in Hong Kong

People receive a dose of the Sinovac Biotech's COVID-19 vaccine at a community vaccination center in Hong Kong.   © Reuters

SHANGHAI (Reuters) -- China's foreign ministry office in Hong Kong said that it will simplify mainland China visa applications for foreigners in the city who have been inoculated with Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccines.

The simplified process, effective from Monday, resumes pre-pandemic application requirements, and will be available only to applicants and their family members inoculated with Chinese-produced vaccines who have obtained a vaccination certificate, the office of China's foreign commissioner in Hong Kong said in a statement dated Friday.

It said it made the move "in view of resuming people-to-people exchanges between China and other countries in an orderly manner." It did not say why the simplified procedures were not extended to those receiving other COVID-19 vaccines.

Foreign travellers who have been vaccinated with non-Chinese vaccines will continue to be required to present negative nucleic acid tests and a health and travel declaration form, the statement said.

It was not immediately clear if the simplified procedures will be available to foreigners applying for visas outside of Hong Kong.

China has been 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 games.

But its efforts have hit snags, with commitments to distribution in Africa resulting in few shots in arms, and politicians in Europe warning against their use before approval by the bloc's drugs regulator.

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