Could the UK impose new Covid travel restrictions?

After Italy, the US and several other countries imposed restrictions on travelers from China, how likely is the UK to do the same?

These are the main questions and answers.

What are the new rules – and why?

From January 5, arrivals to the United States from China must show a negative Covid-19 test result or proof of recent recovery from the virus.

The rule also applies to “special administrative regions” – Hong Kong and Macau – as well as travelers arriving from the country via key hubs in Toronto, Vancouver and Seoul.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made the decision after Beijing lifted the “zero Covid” policy, leading to a rapid rise in infections across China.

The CDC said the tests are necessary due to “the lack of adequate and transparent data on reported viral epidemiological and genomic sequences” by Chinese authorities.

“These data are essential to effectively monitor the increase in cases and reduce the chances of entry of a new variant of concern,” the CDC said.

“Pre-departure testing and the requirement to show a negative test result have been shown to decrease the number of infected passengers on board aircraft, and this will help slow the spread of the virus as we work to identify and understand any new potential variant that may emerge. »

Any officially approved test, carried out no later than two days before departure from China, will suffice. Medically documented proof of an infection at least 10 days earlier will also be accepted.

The US decision came at the same time as Hong Kong lifted nearly all travel restrictions on vaccinated visitors, in a bid to rebuild its tourism industry.

What are other countries doing?

The new US requirement follows similar moves by India, Italy, Japan and Taiwan.

Italy was the first European country where the coronavirus spread rapidly after being imported from China. Health Minister Orazio Schillac said pre-departure testing is now mandatory for passengers arriving from the People’s Republic, with on-arrival testing for travelers whose condition raises concerns.

Italian reports indicate that more than half of passengers arriving in Milan on two flights from China earlier this week had tested positive for Covid.

From 1 January 2023, arrivals to India from China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Thailand will be required to upload a negative Covid-19 PCR test result – taken within the previous 72 hours – to Air Suvidha, a government website, prior to departure for the ‘India.

At present, one in 50 of international arrivals to India – from anywhere in the world – are selected for random testing.

From December 30, Japan imposes tests on arrival on anyone who has been in China in the past week. Anyone who tests positive will be placed in a Covid recovery center for a week.

TaiwanThe central epidemic command center said PCR testing on arrival would be required for people arriving from mainland China from January 1, 2023.

Will the UK follow suit by asking for tests?

Not for the moment. A government spokesman said The Independent“There are no plans to reintroduce Covid-19 testing or additional requirements for arrivals to the UK.”

However, the UK Health Security Agency will continue to monitor the prevalence and spread of potentially harmful variants.

Does everyone agree that no testing is necessary?

No. Former health minister Lord Bethell, who was appointed at the start of the Covid pandemic, told the BBC Today program: “What the Italians are doing is post-flight surveillance of arrivals in Italy in order to understand if there are emerging variants and to understand the impact of the virus on the Italian health system. It’s a sensible thing to do and something the UK government should seriously consider. »

Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency and campaigner against draconian Covid restrictions, said: ‘I think it is inevitable that the UK will follow the decision of several other countries to impose restrictions. greater restrictions on those traveling from China.

“There is a huge gap in knowledge about the impact of Covid in China and Ministers will not want to risk doing nothing to monitor the flow of Covid into the UK from China. It is relatively easy for the UK government to ask airlines to insist on negative Covid tests at the point of departure from a specific country.

“Ministers have learned to share a lot more health information with other countries since Covid started, and you can’t let Italy and the US do one thing while the UK is rests on its laurels. So I expect changes by next week, just before China drops its own restrictions on January 8.

The Independent asked the Labor Party if it backs calls for new testing for arrivals from China. At the height of the pandemic, shadow ministers consistently called for tougher travel restrictions.

How many flights arrive from China?

According to aviation analysis company Cirium, six non-stop flights with 1,795 seats are scheduled to the UK from China over the next week on Air China, China Southern Airlines, Hainan Airlines, Beijing Capital Airlines and China Eastern Airlines. .

Flights will arrive from Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Qingdao.

In addition, The Independent identified two daily flights to London Heathrow from Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific and a third on British Airways.

Remind me of the Covid tests for traveling to the UK?

Throughout 2020, UK ministers have dismissed pre-travel testing as unnecessary. But in 2021, after an unprecedented 19-week ban came into force, the government made testing compulsory for all arrivals.

Until March 18, 2022, the UK had some of the most onerous travel restrictions of any major European country. Unvaccinated travelers had to take a test before departure and a PCR after arrival.

When they were lifted in March, then Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: ‘You can travel like the good old days.

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