European Union countries have agreed to take a “coordinated precautionary approach” in response to the Covid crisis in China and Beijing’s easing of international travel restrictions from January 8 after it abolished its strict zero Covid policy in December.
The legally non-binding decision came from the EU’s integrated political crisis response (IPCR) group on Wednesday evening, allowing member states of the bloc to maintain or impose their own Covid testing and travel restrictions for travelers from China. Several EU countries, including France, Italy and Spain, have relaunched or announced mandatory Covid-19 testing for travelers from China in recent weeks.
The IPCR agreed to “strongly encourage” member states to request a negative Covid-19 test done no more than 48 hours before departure from all travelers from China, regardless of nationality. It also “recommends” to wear high-quality face masks on flights to and from China, and to provide personal hygiene and health advice to passengers, aircraft and airport personnel. Countries are “encouraged to complete these measures” by randomly testing passengers from China and ranking all positive results, as well as testing and sorting waste water from flights and airplanes and airports from China. Belgium and Germany have already implemented the second measure.
The EU-wide recommendation will take effect from 8 January. Member states agreed to assess the situation and review the measures introduced by mid-January.
EU recommendations lag behind measures reinstated in other countries or regions, including Australia, the US, the UK, India, Japan, Malaysia and South Korea.
The U.S. government requires proof of a negative Covid-19 test for all passengers aged two years and older flying to the United States from China, Hong Kong or Macau starting at 00:01 on January 5. nationality or vaccination status – flying from China to the USA. It also covers passengers transiting from China via Incheon International Airport, Toronto Pearson International Airport or Vancouver International Airport in Korea.
The UK government requires all travelers arriving in the UK from China from 5 January to show a negative pre-flight Covid-19 test taken no more than two days before departure.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has criticized countries’ decision to implement Covid 19 testing and other measures for passengers arriving from China. “It is extremely disappointing to see measures that have proven ineffective over the past three years to be reintroduced in this way,” said Willie Walsh, IATA managing director. Governments, he added, “must listen to the advice of experts, [World Health Organization], advising against travel restrictions. We have the tools to manage Covid-19 without resorting to ineffective measures that cut international connectivity, damage economies and destroy jobs. Governments should base their decisions on ‘scientific facts’ rather than ‘science policy’.”
Separately, Brussels-based European airports trade body, ACI Europe, expressed regret at the actions of some states within the EU and globally to unilaterally impose health-related travel requirements, including systematic pre-departure or on-arrival testing. Travelers from China. “Once again, we are back to the patchy state of unscientific, unjustified and uncoordinated travel restrictions,” said Olivier Jankovec, managing director of ACI Europe. “Clearly, we still need to learn the painful lessons of the past. These travel restrictions are not working.”