Europe

UK may consider required Covid tests for Chinese travellers

China’s spokesperson censors himself after zero Covid question

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On Wednesday evening, the US announced it will be imposing mandatory Corvid tests on travellers from China. It comes after the Chinese goverment announced last week it will be lifting its strict zero-Covid approach and lifting travelling restrictions on January 9 after three years of lockdowns. 

However, China’s travel freedoms come at a time the country is reported to be having a surge of Covid cases.

The US has accused the Chinese goverment of failing to provide “adequate and transparent” Covid data which it said was “critical” for monitoring infection surges “efficently”. 

A senior US health official told reporters: “The recent rapid increase in COVID-19 transmission in China increases the potential for new variants emerging,

“We have just limited information in terms of what’s being shared related to the number of cases that are increasing, hospitalisations and especially deaths. 

“Also, there’s been a decrease in testing across China so it also makes it difficult to know what the true infection rate is.” 

It is currently unknown what China’s official daily Covid case numbers are as they have stopped releasing the data, but there have been reports that hospitals are overwhelmed and elderly people have high mortality rates due to low vaccination rates. 

The UK Goverment has said it had no plans to reintroduce tests or entry requirements for any travellers entering the country.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Wednesday that restrictions were “not something we are looking at”.

However, the Telegraph has reported that officials from the Department for Transport, Home Office and Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) will be considering taking similar procedures to the US.

The newspaper also stated that Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, was consulting advisors on Wednesday night on if they should demand the restrictions.

Paul Charles, chief executive of the travel consultancy The PC Agency, has said it was “inevitable” the UK Government will follow in implement similar rules on China.

His claim is that the UK Goverment will take action after being criticised for its slow response to the virus being spread by flights from China during the pandemic.

He said: “Governments have learned lessons from the initial wave of Covid. One of those lessons is that they work more closely on such restrictions.

“You cannot have Italy and the US doing one thing and others not doing the same.”

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Right now, countries that are also testing Chinese tourists for Covid alongside the US are Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan, India and Italy, which became the first European country to implement obligatory tests for Chinese travellers.

Orazio Schillaci, the Italian health minister, said: “The measure is essential to guarantee the surveillance and identification of any variants of the virus in order to protect the Italian population.”

The decision from countries to implement the rule has faced criticism from Chinese officials such as Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry.

Mr Wang said: “Currently the development of China’s epidemic situation is overall predictable and under control.”

He accused the Western media reporting on Chinese covid case surges of being “completely biased” and also accused the media of “hyping, smearing and political manipulation with ulterior motives can’t stand the test of facts.”

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