More countries impose Covid-19 restrictions on Chinese travelers
People traveling to France from China will be required to show a negative Covid-19 test before boarding their flights, the government in Paris confirmed on Friday, adding that test results must be less than 48 hours old, and that some passengers will be subjected to further random screenings upon arrival. Any positive test will be sequenced to check for new variants of the virus.
The UK has adopted a similar policy, requiring all travelers whose flights originate in China to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken no more than two days before travel, according to a statement on Friday from the Department of Health and Social Care.
Also on Friday, Spain announced that visitors from China will be required to test negative for the virus or show proof they have been fully vaccinated against it. Italy became the first EU country to put up the testing roadblock for Chinese travelers on Wednesday.
Both Madrid and Rome have urged the EU to adopt a unified strategy to control what they fear will be an influx of virus-carrying Chinese tourists after Beijing set aside its controversial zero-Covid strategy earlier this month. But the bloc’s health agency argued on Thursday that mandatory screenings for all Chinese tourists were “unjustified.” Additionally, EU members Portugal and Austria are against the restrictions. Germany has not announced any new rules so far.
German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach on Friday revealed his country was working on a system to monitor variants across all European airports, that would theoretically detect and alert authorities to any unknown variant. The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control urged governments not to panic, citing Europe’s “higher population immunity” and greater exposure to “variants currently circulating in China,” while promising to “remain vigilant.”
Beijing slammed the testing requirements as "unfounded and discriminatory" in an editorial published in the state outlet Global Times on Thursday, accusing the US and its allies of attempting to “sabotage China’s three years of Covid-19 control efforts and attack the country’s system.”
China had defended its virus controls, after maintaining some of the world’s strictest zero-Covid policies for nearly three years, claiming they were necessary to save lives. It gradually shed the restrictions this month following an outbreak of anti-lockdown protests.
Bloomberg claimed last week that up to 248 million people, or nearly 18% of China’s total population, were infected with Covid-19 in December alone. The National Health Commission officially claimed only 14,285 infections last week, along with seven deaths.
China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbi said on Wednesday that China’s "epidemic situation" was "predictable and under control".