Covid: EU health officials meet to discuss response to spike in cases across China

Health officials across the EU are holding talks to try to coordinate vastly different views on how to respond to China’s decision to lift its Covid-19 restrictions despite infections surging across the country. country.

The scale of the epidemic in China and doubts over official data have prompted countries such as the United States, India and Japan to impose new travel rules on Chinese visitors while others, including the Britain, said they had no plans yet to bring back Covid testing for those entering the country.

In the EU, so far only Italy has ordered Covid-19 antigen swabs for all travelers from China, while others in the largely borderless bloc have said they do not. did not see the need to do the same or were waiting for a common position in the 27 Member States. .

“From a scientific point of view, there is no reason at this stage to reinstate border controls,” said Brigitte Autran, president of the French health risk assessment committee COVARS, on Radio Classique on Thursday morning.

Ms Autran, who advises the government on epidemiological risks, said that could change at any time but for now the situation was under control and there were no signs of worrying new variants of Covid in China. .

Germany said it saw no need to impose new travel restrictions, and Austria highlighted the economic benefits of the prospect of Chinese tourists returning to Europe.

Italy “expects and hopes” that the European Union will follow its lead in imposing mandatory testing, the country’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said on Thursday.

Deputy Prime Minister and Transport Minister Matteo Salvini said in a post on Twitter that “Italy cannot be the only country carrying out anti-Covid checks at airports for those arriving from China”.

“I asked for controls and possible limitations to be applied throughout Europe.”

The main airport in the Italian city of Milan began testing passengers arriving from Beijing and Shanghai on December 26 and found nearly half of them were infected.

It was unclear when the EU health committee, which started its meeting on Thursday morning, would end and what decisions it might take.

“The EU Health Security Committee is meeting (…) to discuss the COVID-19 situation in China and possible measures to be taken in a coordinated manner,” said the Commission’s Directorate-General for Health. European on Twitter.

The Health Security Committee is made up of officials from health ministries across the bloc and chaired by the Commission.

It met frequently during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in Europe to coordinate policies. Any decision would only be advisory, but its aim is for member states to agree on a common line and apply it across the bloc.

China’s borders have been virtually closed to foreigners since the start of 2020, shortly after the outbreak of the coronavirus in its central city of Wuhan, but it has announced that it will stop requiring incoming travelers to put themselves in quarantine from January 8 as she continues to book her ‘zero Covid policy.

This will boost overseas travel for its citizens who will no longer have to spend time in quarantine upon returning home.

China has dismissed criticism of the accuracy of its official Covid statistics as baseless and politically motivated attempts to smear its policies. It also minimized the risk of new variants.

Reuters

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