On 16 February, the Member States of the EU met in the framework of the Integrated Political Crisis Response (IPCR) arrangements, in the presence of the Schengen Associated Countries, to review the situation regarding the Covid-19 related measures applicable to travellers from China.
In light of the recent epidemiological developments and taking into account the opinion of the Health Security Committee, Member States agreed to firstly phase out the requirement for a negative pre-departure Covid-19 test for travellers from China to Member States by the end of February, then to phase out random testing of travellers arriving from China to Member States by the middle of March.
I welcome the agreement reached by EU countries to phase out Covid-19 restrictions on travellers from China. The sooner the restrictions are lifted, the better for people-to-people exchanges between China and the EU.HE Fu Cong, Ambassador of China to the European Union, told Travel Tomorrow
“This is an important step forward for EU economies”, the World Travel and Tourism Council welcomed the news. “It will be a major boost to businesses across the Travel and Tourism sector in the region, as well as for families and friends reconnecting and society generally returning to post-Covid normality. In 2019, before the pandemic, nearly 10 million Chinese tourists visited the EU with inbound revenue worth US $12.2 billion, creating jobs and boosting regional economies. The return of Chinese travellers to the EU is very welcome.”
IPCR reiterated the value of a coordinated precautionary approach and emphasised it will continue to monitor the situation in relation to Covid-19 developments, a statement from the Swedish Presidency of the Council of the European Union informed.
On 8 January, China officially abandoned its zero-Covid policy, scrapping the strict quarantine requirements for people entering the country, opening its borders and starting to re-issue passports for its citizens after having stopped the procedures in March 2020. Faced with an upcoming influx of people travelling from China and fearing the country was not transparently reporting the evolution of the epidemic, the European Union, along with other states around the world, started asking for negative pre-departure tests from tourists coming from China.
Opinions about this decision were split, with the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC) calling it unjustified. The centre emphasised at the time that testing wastewater from airplanes was sufficient for detecting possible new variants of the virus, which would be the only concern, since immunity levels in Europe were high.
In the meantime, genome sequencing tests conducted on samples collected from planes arriving from China to Belgium did not find any previously unknown variants. Additionally, from a total of 2,130 passengers arriving in Belgium from China, only one failed to provide a negative PCR test taken before departure. The person in question took the test on arrival, having a negative result and being allowed to continue their journey.