BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union assesses the rise in COVID-19 cases in China following Beijing’s rollback of its strict infection controls in a bid to streamline testing of travelers from China in the 27 EU countries.
The European Commission said on Thursday that the BF7 omicron variant prevalent in China was already active in Europe and its threat has not increased significantly.
“However, we remain vigilant and will be ready to use the emergency brake if necessary,” the EU executive said in a statement.
Even though EU virus experts played down the immediate danger, Italy on Wednesday made coronavirus testing mandatory for all airline passengers arriving from China. More than 50% of people screened on arrival at Milan Malpensa airport in recent days have tested positive for the virus.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni on Thursday increased pressure on the EU to come on board with Italy’s approach. She said requiring COVID tests of all passengers arriving from China “is only effective if done at European level”, noting that many arrive in Italy on connecting flights via other European countries. .
In Germany, however, the government took a different position. “There is ‘no indication that a more dangerous variant has developed in this outbreak in China… which would lead to corresponding travel restrictions,'” Health Ministry spokesman Sebastian Guelde said.
A coordinated EU approach is needed since almost all EU member countries are part of the visa-free Schengen area. Unrestricted travel means testing in one country would not be very effective as travelers from China could enter from another EU country and spread the virus.
After strict travel restrictions at the height of the pandemic, the EU reverted to a pre-pandemic system of free travel this fall, but member countries agreed an ’emergency brake’ could be activated at short notice. term to meet an unexpected challenge.
The United States announced new COVID-19 testing requirements for all travelers from China on Wednesday, joining some Asian countries that had imposed restrictions due to a spike in infections.
Japan will require a negative COVID-19 test on arrival for travelers from China, and Malaysia has announced new tracking and surveillance measures. India, South Korea and Taiwan require virus testing for visitors from China.
Colleen Barry contributed from Milan, Geir Moulson from Berlin