The EU has rejected Italy’s request to reimpose travel restrictions on arrivals from China, as capitals around the world are taking different approaches to the country’s growing numbers of coronavirus infections.
At a meeting on Thursday, EU officials disapproved of Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni’s call to collectively follow up on Rome’s move to test all aircraft from China, in response to the bloc’s abrupt decision to lift Beijing’s zero-Kovid policies.
Meloni warned Brussels that Italy’s mandatory test, announced Wednesday, “will be ineffective if not followed up at the European level”. We wish Europe to move in this direction,” he said.
Instead, France, Germany and other EU countries argued that the situation did not guarantee a change in their nation. coronavirus policies.
The EU’s health and safety committee, made up of member state officials, agreed on Thursday that “coordination of national responses to serious cross-border threats to health is crucial”, adding: “We need to act together and we will continue our discussions.”
The European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, said BF was. 7 The Omicron variant, common in China, was already available in Europe.
“However, we remain vigilant and will be ready to use the emergency brake if necessary,” the commission said.
The debate over the re-implementation of pandemic travel restrictions lifted in western countries for much of last year is the latest reflection on Beijing’s decision to shelve its brutal zero-Kovid policies that have sparked a coronavirus wave in China that has affected tens of millions of people. Chinese everyday.
The massive increase in infection cases and the increase in international travel bookings from China has prompted the United States to act. request a negative test result for new arrivals Japan, India and Taiwan also set test requirements for arrivals from China in anticipation of a wave of visitors.
Stocks fell In Asia and Europe on Thursday as investors worried about the impact of the increase on the global economy.
The British government also said it was reviewing whether to do Covid checks to those arriving from China – unlike its previous insistence that it did not “look” at such measures – but insisted it had no “plans” to re-implement border controls. .
A government official said the UK had already experienced the Omicron wave that swept through China.
However, the UK Health Safety Agency is monitoring the prevalence and spread of harmful variants and all available international data will be kept under scrutiny, Downing Street said.
Italy’s health minister, Orazio Schillaci, said Rome will use genetic sequencing of positive test results to determine if new variants are emerging in China. There is concern that any new strain could pose a higher health threat than currently circulating variants, to which vaccines in use in the west offer good protection.
Italy said 52 percent of passengers on a post-Christmas flight from China to Milan had tested positive for the coronavirus. The EU’s single visa Schengen area means there are no restrictions on people moving around much of the bloc.
After the EU committee’s meeting on Thursday, the French health ministry said the negotiations underlined the need for a coherent EU strategy, as well as more data and further work on measures to protect people and inform travelers.
However, “At this stage, the number of Chinese travelers to Europe is limited and will remain so for a few more weeks as China’s reopening measures are put into motion and into effect,” he said.
Governments in the Nordic countries and the United Kingdom have also said they have no plans to follow Italy’s lead or are waiting for more information.
Health officials said Norway and Finland were not considering imposing any conditions on arrivals from China because these countries already have significant Covid infections and very few travelers from the Asian country at this time of year.
“It’s pointless,” Jari Jalava, an infectious disease specialist at the Finnish health institution, told state television Yle.
Germany’s health ministry said it is “monitoring the situation closely and is cooperating closely with our international partners”. “So far, the ministry of health has no indication that any variants of concern have emerged in the context of the outbreak in China, compared to the variants currently circulating in Germany,” spokesman Sebastian Gulde said.
Additional reporting by Giuliana Ricozzi of Rome, Richard Milne of Oslo, Barney Jopson of Madrid and Guy Chazan of Berlin
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