UK to consider following USA in requiring Covid tests for arrivals from China

Officials will be assessing today. Six flights from China are due to arrive within the next week, as Beijing lifts its zero-Covid policies.

Officials from the UK’s transport and home offices will discuss today whether or not the UK should follow other countries and impose Covid restrictions on Chinese travellers.

The United States announced that all Chinese travellers must be negative for Covid-19 prior to entering the country. This joins India, Japan, Italy and Taiwan who have taken new measures following Beijing’s decision not to remove stringent zero-Covid policies.

All passengers aged over 2 years will be affected by the change. They will no longer need to submit a negative test result more than 2 days before departing from China, Hong Kong, or Macao.

Today, officials from the Department for Transport, Home Office and Department for Health and Social Care will assess whether the UK should join six non-stop flights with 1,795 passengers from China. They are due to arrive in the UK within the next seven days. There are 26 direct flights scheduled for January.

Paul Charles, chief executive at The PC Agency, a travel consultancy, stated that it was “inevitable” that the UK Government would act after being criticised for its slow response on the spread of Covid from China to flights during the outbreak.

“Governments have learned from the initial wave in Covid. One of these lessons is that they are more attentive to such restrictions. Charles stated that it was impossible for the US and Italy to do the same thing.

Yesterday’s Prime Minister’s spokesperson stated that restrictions are “not something we are considering,” but the US and Italian moves could cause a ripple effect in Europe, which will then adopt similar precautions.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper was critical of the UK’s inaction over the first Covid outbreaks. She was last night consulting advisers to determine whether restrictions should be demanded.

After Beijing opened its borders to the outside world, Italy was the first European country to require that all Chinese arriving in Europe be tested for Covid.

It took almost three years for Italy to decide to test all Chinese arrivals. This was after the country became the first western country to be affected by the pandemic that has claimed over 180,000 lives to date.

Orazio Schillaci (Italian health minister) stated that the measure was essential in order to ensure the identification and surveillance of all variants of the virus to protect the Italian people.

Italy has been monitoring the results of swabs at Milan’s Malpensa and Rome’s Fiumicino airports. On Monday, one in every two Chinese passengers who arrived on flights from China were tested were found to be positive for coronavirus.

Virologists are monitoring closely how China’s decision not to quarantine foreign visitors starting on 8 January, and to resume issuing visas and passports to its citizens at the same time may impact the spread of the disease.

China’s zero-Covid policy is ending amid rising case numbers and low vaccination rates, especially for the elderly.

In a telephone briefing, a senior US health official stated that the recent increase in Covid-19 transmission in China has increased the possibility of new variants emerging.

We have limited information about what is being shared regarding the increase in hospitalisations, deaths and cases. The official stated that there has been a decline in testing in China, making it harder to determine the true infection rate.

China’s Centre for Disease Prevention and Control reported only 5,231 new Covid cases and three fatalities nationwide Wednesday. This is likely to be a significant undercount since people no longer have to report infections to authorities.

Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for the foreign ministry, stated that “currently the development of China’s epidemic situation is overall predictable” on Wednesday.

Mr Wang stated that “Hyping and smearing, political manipulation with ulterior motives cannot stand the test of fact,” calling Western media coverage on the Covid surge “completely biased”.

Evidence shows that hospitals and crematoriums in China are still overwhelmed by Covid cases. This is especially true for the elderly.

This winter surge is occurring ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday next month when hundreds of millions are expected to travel back to their homes to reunite with family members.

Global health experts believe the virus could infect up to one million people each day. International modelling groups predict that China could see two million deaths.

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