As China has started to relax travel restrictions and quarantine rules, other countries from around the world have started to re-impose mandatory Covid testing for travellers coming from the Asian country.
After almost three years of strict zero-Covid policies, China is starting to ease some of its restrictions, internally and internationally. The country has started issuing passports for its citizens and visas for foreigners again, after stopping the procedures in March 2020. After relaxing some travel restrictions last month, earlier this week, it was announced that mandatory quarantine periods will also be significantly shortened as of January.
Despite the Chinese people’s joy at the reopening of borders, the move has made way for a new wave of infections to spread across the country. Official numbers cite about 5,000 cases per day, but many think the number is severely misinforming, the BBC reporting the “daily case load may be closer to a million”, with overwhelmed hospitals and a nationwide lack of basic medicine.
Italy, where the virus first started spreading in Europe at the beginning of the pandemic, has already begun testing travellers arriving from China. Passengers on two flights landing at Milan’s Malpensa airport earlier this week were tested and the results were a sound of alarm. Guido Bertolaso, Lombardy regional councillor for welfare, revealed that, on the first flight, 35 out of 95 passengers tested positive (38%), while on the second flight, 62 out of 120 passengers tested positive (52%).
The measure is essential to ensure surveillance and detection of possible variants of the virus in order to protect the Italian population.Orazio Schillaci, Italian Minister of Health
As a result, all travellers coming into the country from China will be tested on arrival, with gene sequencing being run on the samples to research the virus’ development. Those found positive will have to quarantine at designated facilities, although clear guidelines have not yet been indicated. Although the European Union has so far taken a coordinated approach towards Covid related travel restrictions and requirements, Italy took the mandatory testing decision ahead of a bloc-wide recommendation to “ensure the surveillance and identification of new virus variants”.
Ahead of an emergency meeting of the health security committee of the European Commission, the mayor of the Belgian city of Bruges has called for testing requirement to be implemented at EU level, rather than national. “The infection rate is still very high there. I think we need to work either with a vaccination certificate or with tests”, mayor Dirk De fauw said on Wednesday, worried about the upcoming tourist season in his city, which usually sees 100,000 to 150,000 Chinese visitors in the spring.
Other countries have also announced testing requirements for travellers coming from China. Japan will test visitors coming form China, on arrival, starting on 31 December and 1 January respectively. India already requires negative pre-departure tests from people coming from China, along with four other Asian countries, while the US will start asking for negative tests, taken no more than two days before departure, on 5 January, for everyone coming from China, Hong Kong or Macao.