Greece, Nepal borders remain open for Chinese nationals: envoys
Published: Feb 04, 2020 01:56 AM

A view of the Santorini island in Greece Photo: VCG

Greece and Nepal will not restrict Chinese nationals from entering their countries due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. Envoys from both countries also told the Global Times on Monday that economic cooperation with China had not been disrupted.

"All Chinese nationals wishing to travel to Greece are welcome to do so as always," Greek Ambassador to China Georgios Iliopoulos said in a statement, denying online rumors the European country had suspended issuing visas in China. 

"All departments at the Consular Authorities of Greece in China are operating normally, including the visa section."

However, Iliopoulos added that external visa application centers remain closed in compliance with instructions from Chinese authorities.

As part of the nationwide campaign to contain the epidemic, Chinese officials have extended the Chinese New Year holidays, and Beijing authorities have also instructed businesses to remain closed until February 10.

A Nepalese freight truck leaves Chinese border check point at Gyirong, Tibet Autonomous Region in May, 2018. File Photo: VCG

Nepal's Ambassador to China Leela Mani Paudyal also said in a statement to the Global Times that their country would not restrict Chinese nationals from crossing their borders. 

"The World Health Organization (WHO) has advised clearly that there is no need to restrict the movement of people and trade," Paudyal said, referring to a decision by the global health agency last week.

On Thursday, WHO declared the respiratory virus was a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC), but it doesn't recommend limiting trade and travel.

Paudyal also said that prohibiting travel or trade could be "counter-productive that will stigmatize the people in pandemic zones and also hamper the coordinated and joint efforts in containing the outbreak." 

The Nepali envoy said her country would implement a thorough safety mechanism to inspect incoming foreigners at the border to help prevent the spread of the virus.

Such reassurance from both nations with diplomatic and economic ties to China offered a stark contrast to those countries led by the US in taking what Chinese officials consider to be an overreaction to the epidemic.

The US imposed entry restrictions on Chinese nationals entering the country. The US State Department also issued its highest level travel alert for China. And Indonesia would ban food and beverage imports from China, according to local media. 

China's Foreign Ministry on Wednesday criticized countries, particularly the US, for overreacting in an apparent deviation from the WHO's recommendations.

The Greek and Nepali envoys also said that business projects with Chinese companies in their countries had not been affected by the epidemic.

"The outbreak will not affect whatsoever existing projects of bilateral cooperation between China and Greece," Iliopoulos said, adding that individual businesses and travelers might adjust their schedules. 

Paudyal said that some Chinese workers in Nepal's China-aided projects had returned home for the Chinese New Year but was confident that China would control the outbreak, and necessary precautions would be implemented to avoid significant consequences.