This Morning: Dr Zoe talks about new Covid variant XBB1.5
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Travellers arriving in England from mainland China will have to show a negative COVID-19 test before flying, as part of tightened restrictions announced by the UK Government as a “precautionary and temporary” measure enforced from January 5. From January 8 the UK Health Security Agency will increase COVID-19 surveillance with a sample of passengers from China tested on arrival. The decision to introduce restrictions has been welcomed by Express.co.uk readers in a recent poll.
England is one of several countries introducing mandatory testing for travellers from China after the nation lifted its zero-Covid policy which resulted in a sharp increase in cases. There are no direct flights from China to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland but the UK Government said it was working with the devolved administrations to put the same rules in place.
The Department of Health said new rules have been applied to China due to “a lack of comprehensive health information”. It added: “The situation remains under review and the UK is working with China on next steps. If there are improvements in information sharing and greater transparency, then temporary measures will be reviewed.”
Health Secretary Steve Barclay said the restrictions were a “balanced and precautionary approach”, while Transport Secretary Mark Harper has ruled out the introduction of self-isolation and quarantine requirements, explaining that the testing would serve as a data-gathering exercise.
Rishi Sunak’s official spokesperson said the system was “striking the right balance” between monitoring concerns and acknowledging that one in 45 people in the UK currently has COVID-19.
In a poll that ran from 9.30am on Friday, December 30, to 1.30pm on Thursday, January 5, Express.co.uk asked readers: “Should Rishi Sunak impose stricter Covid restrictions on travellers from China?”
A total of 5,511 readers responded with the overwhelming majority, 96 percent (5,301 people) answering “yes” in favour of stricter restrictions.
Whereas four percent (195 people) said “no” Mr Sunak should not impose restrictions, and a further 15 people said they did not know either way.
Dozens of comments were left below the accompanying article as readers debated whether mandatory testing should be introduced.
Many readers argued in support of restrictions citing the potential risks to the UK economy and NHS if another wave took hold. Username lizzie56 said: “It’s asking for trouble. We can’t afford to risk another Covid lockdown, it ruined the country last time.”
Username taskmaster22 said: “Absolutely, otherwise we might face a massive shutdown of businesses and our economy yet again.”
Another, username Spekybeky wrote: “With the state of our NHS in Scotland and England, we can’t take the chance of these people bringing in any more variants.”
And username Isus added: “Yes. The last thing we want is for new variants, against which the current vaccines don’t work well, to get a foothold in the UK.”
Other readers thought that restrictions should have been implemented ahead of time, with username TheRockerator commenting: “It’s a no-brainer, it should have been done immediately.”
Username fastjet1 added: “Absolutely, and it should have happened days ago.”
Likewise, username Mbashir01 said: “No time left for us to debate, discuss, and wait for senior medical experts’ decision! Suspend all flights.”
And username Pierre Morgune wrote: “Impose mandatory covid testing now for all those entering the U.K. before we are inundated again with Covid.”
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Meanwhile, a minority of readers argued there was no need for restrictions. Username AndrewJones73 said: “No. We live with the virus from now onwards.”
Username wilfred01 said: “We can’t stop it. This time we have to do exactly what Boris [Johnson] wanted to do last time which was let it run.”
Similarly, username mrdoodles described testing as “complete madness”.
Willie Walsh, head of global airlines body IATA, slammed the new restrictions, saying: “We have the tools to manage COVID-19 without resorting to ineffective measures that cut off international connectivity, damage economies and destroy jobs. Governments must base their decisions on ‘science facts’ rather than ‘science politics’.”
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