BEIJING, May 13 — China’s immigration authority is still providing services for necessary trips outside the country, it said on Friday, denying rumours that passport issuances were halted and that residency cards for living in foreign countries were being invalidated.

Officials have promptly processed certificates for people who need to travel abroad for necessary and urgent matters such as study, scientific research, trade and businesses and medical issues, the National Immigration Administration (NIA) said in a statement.

The NIA was responding to what it said were “foreign media reports” that falsely said the agency had suspended passport issuances and had invalidated residency cards issued by foreign countries to Chinese citizens eligible to live overseas by cutting off the corners. The NIA statement did not include examples of the reports.

The statement followed the NIA’s announcement on Thursday that it would “strictly limit” unnecessary overseas travels by Chinese citizens to minimize the risks of a resurgence in Covid-19 cases caused by infections among international travellers.

“There remain great uncertainties in the development of the pandemic and a big risk of getting infected during trips overseas,” the NIA said in the statement on Friday, which was published on social media.

“People in the country should continue not to travel abroad for unnecessary, non urgent purposes.”

Overseas travel from China has become more difficult with frequent flight cancellations and travel curbs in areas with domestic Covid outbreaks, as the country insists on stringent moves including citywide lockdowns to curb a wave of infections this year. 

The country has suspended issuing common passports for trips considered unnecessary. In February, the NIA said it has not resumed issuing or renewing passports for leisure tours. 

Trips in or out of the country made by mainland citizens in 2021 plunged nearly 80 per cent compared with the level in 2019, NIA data showed.

Shanghai is also looking to expand the number of businesses allowed to operate, Wu said, adding that the entire city would resume normal production and life “as soon as possible”.

However, there were still major challenges and rebound risks, he said, especially in older parts of the city, where sanitation infrastructure is weaker.

As the situation improves, Shanghai will allow transport to resume and will also gradually reopen schools, beginning with those grades about to take college or senior high school entrance exams, Wu added.

Shanghai has been preparing for the end of the lockdown with a “normalised” Covid testing system that will allow residents to get quick tests before going into public places. — Reuters

Wu told reporters that more than 5,700 testing stations were in operation, with a target of 9,900. The stations will be able to test people in 15 minutes. — Reuters