Italy urges divided EU to test China arrivals for COVID

On Thursday, Italy followed the lead of other European Union countries in urging travelers from China to be tested for COVID, while others said they didn’t think it was necessary for now or were waiting for a unified stance across the borderless bloc. EU health officials held talks this morning, stressing the importance of coordination, but were unable to agree on a single measure.

This is not the first time EU countries have been divided over COVID policy. At the beginning of the pandemic, there was much debate about what to do, intense competition to buy safety equipment, and member states pooled and successfully placed and shared joint vaccine orders. Italy “expects and hopes” that the EU will, like Rome, make all passengers flying from China mandatory COVID tests, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni told a news conference.

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Doubts about the extent of the outbreak in China and official reports have prompted countries such as the United States and Japan to impose new travel rules on Chinese tourists as Beijing lifts restrictions. So far in the EU, only Italy has ordered a COVID-19 antigen swab for all travelers from China. Meloni said it risks being ineffective unless others in the bloc, where people travel freely from one country to another, don’t do the same.

Italy’s central Milan airport began testing passengers from Beijing and Shanghai on December 26, and found that almost half of them were infected. Testing for coronavirus infection?

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But Brigitte Autran, head of COVARS, France’s health risk assessment committee, said earlier Thursday: “From a scientific point of view, there is currently no reason to reintroduce border controls.” Autran, who advises the government on epidemiological risks, told Radio Classique that it could change at any time, but that the situation is currently under control and there are no signs of concern about new variants of COVID in China.

Germany and Portugal also said there was no need for new travel restrictions, while Austria highlighted the economic benefits of Chinese tourists returning to Europe. Elsewhere in Europe, the UK has also said it has no plans to return COVID tests to people arriving in the country.

The EU Health Committee, made up of officials from federal health ministries and chaired by the Commission, concluded its meeting by calling for a common position. “We need to work together and will continue our negotiations,” the European Commission said on Twitter, without specifying when talks would start.

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China’s borders have been closed to foreigners since early 2020, shortly after the coronavirus first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, but announced on January 8 that it would lift the quarantine for incoming travelers. Once a $255 billion annual global market, Chinese tourists are expected to return to the streets to shop around the world.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is automatically generated from syndicated feeds.)

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