Special rescue flights under the Vande Bharat Mission (VBM) to and from India have been indefinitely suspended by China on Thursday, barring non-Chinese flyers from returning to the country, after a spike in COVID cases was reported in last week's rescue mission.
Air India has been operating these flights under the VBM mission to different cities of China. Commercial flights between the two countries however have not resumed.
Entry of non-Chinese visitors from Britain, Belgium and the Philippines were also reportedly banned by Beijing.
The new suspension order is a partial reversal of an easing on September 28, when Beijing allowed all foreigners with valid residence permits to enter.
The ban will affect four VBM flights scheduled every week from November 13th onwards. They will have to be rescheduled now.
Defending the decision, the Chinese foreign ministry said it was a "reasonable and fair" measure to tackle the pandemic.
"China is drawing on the practices of many countries and adjusting its handling of the entry of the relevant people into China based on the changing pandemic situation," said ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin during a briefing on Thursday.
While foreign nationals in India, who are holding valid Chinese visas or residence permits, will not be permitted entry into China, the government clarified that foreigners holding Chinese diplomatic, service, courtesy and C visas are not affected.
"Foreigners with emergency or humanitarian needs to visit China can submit visa application to the Chinese Embassy/ Consulates in India. The entry into China with visas issued after November 3rd, 2020 is not affected," it said in a statement.
"The suspension is a temporary measurement that China has to adopt to deal with the current pandemic. China will make further adjustment and announcement in accordance with the ongoing pandemic situation in a timely manner," it added.
Last Friday, As many as 23 Covid-19 positive Indians among them 19 asymptomatic carriers of the infection were on board a VBM flight, which landed in the central Chinese city of Wuhan from New Delhi.
The flight had registered the highest number of infected persons on an Indian rescue flight to China so far.