Prague, Czech Republic- China has warned its citizens and tourists against travelling to the Czech Republic, citing the deteriorating epidemiological situation in the Central European country.
In a statement released last week, the Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism said that, due to “a quick rebound in the COVID-19 pandemic”, Chinese tourists should “by no means travel to the Czech Republic”.
While the Czech Republic has widely been praised as a success-story in its handling of the first coronavirus wave earlier this year, new cases have been rising at a faster rate than its neighbours since the beginning of the month, sparking fears of a more devastating second wave.
With daily cases exceeding 1,000 for five days in a row, even reaching 1,541 on Saturday – an all-time high since the start of the pandemic – Czech authorities were forced to reintroduce some restrictions and tighten face-masks rules, now mandatory in almost all indoor spaces throughout the country.
On Sunday, 792 new cases of coronavirus infection were recorded by local health authorities – a drop possibly due to the lower number of tests conducted during the week-end.
Although Chinese authorities have cited the spike in infections to justify their travel warning, commentators have pointed out Beijing might be using the pandemic as pay-back, following a controversial visit by Czech Senate leader Miloš Vystrčil to Taiwan, two weeks ago.
After the visit, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi had vowed that Czech leaders would have to “pay a heavy price” for the high-profile visit, described as a “public provocation” undermining its sovereignty.
The Czech Republic was, before the pandemic, one of the most popular destinations in Europe for tourists from China: more than 620,000 Chinese travelers visited the Central European country in 2019 – the fourth biggest source of foreign tourists after neighbouring Germans, Slovaks and Poles.
“Dubbed ‘walking wallets’, more middle-class Chinese are travelling to destinations all over the world, but are also increasingly used as a veiled means for Beijing to exert pressure on other governments”, writes the South China Morning Post, citing other cases where Chinese officials have used the clout of their tourism industry for political purposes.
Main photo credit: Kasia Strek / The New York Times