European Union officials are “strongly” recommending that all member states insist on negative Covid tests from Chinese arrivals before they travel.
Travel in and out of China gets easier from Sunday, as part of the scrapping of the “zero-Covid” policy.
China is currently seeing a surge in Covid cases, with reports of hospitals and crematoriums being overwhelmed.
Some EU countries have already introduced testing – despite earlier advice that it was “unjustified”.
Wednesday’s recommendation on negative tests came from the EU’s Integrated Political Crisis Response group (IPCR), a body made up of officials from the EU’s 27 governments.
It also advised that:
- All passengers on flights to and from China wear face masks
- Random testing of flights from China be introduced, and
- Wastewater monitoring be conducted at airports.
The recommendation comes a day after the European Commission, the executive body of the European Union, said an “overwhelming” number of member states favoured restrictions on Chinese arrivals.
France, Spain and Italy have already introduced testing – but others, such as Germany, had been monitoring the situation. The UK, outside the EU, introduces pre-flight testing on China arrivals from Wednesday.
Despite the recommendation, it’s not known if an EU-wide policy will be introduced – but individual states can set their own policy.
The advice from the IPCR is a change in tack from the body’s disease prevention agency, which last week advised against the introduction of mandatory Covid tests.
The ECDC said testing was “unjustified”, given the high rates of vaccination in Europe, and that variants circulating in China were already in the European Union.
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday said there was no evidence of new variants in China, despite the surge in cases. However, experts warned this could be due to a lack of testing and data.
The WHO has also said that China was under-representing the true impact of Covid in the country – in part due to what they said was a “too narrow” definition of a Covid death.
Beijing has confirmed only 22 deaths since December, which is at odds with data from analysts.
The UK science data company Airfinity estimates there are more than two million Covid cases a day in China, and 14,700 deaths.
The Chinese government suggested earlier this week that travel restrictions on Chinese arrivals are politically motivated – and has warned that it may retaliate.