Monday, February 6, 2023

EU evaluates community measures against coronavirus

BRUSSELS ( Associated Press) — The European Union is considering China’s decision to roll back its strict coronavirus controls, but refrained Thursday shortly after EU member Italy required tests for airline passengers arriving from the Asian country. .

Health officials from the 27-member bloc have vowed to continue talks to seek a common approach to travel rules. However, the EU’s executive branch said the dominant Chinese BF.7 Omicron variant was already circulating in Europe and its threat had not increased significantly.

“However, we remain vigilant and will stand ready to use the emergency brake if necessary,” the European Commission said in a statement.

Although EU virus experts have downplayed the immediate threat, Italy has mandated COVID-19 testing for all airline passengers arriving from China. More than 50% of people tested upon arrival at Milan’s Malpensa airport in recent days have tested positive for the virus.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni on Thursday stepped up pressure on the European Union to join Italy’s strategy. He said the requirement for COVID testing of all passengers from China is “effective only if it is taken at the European level”, noting that many arrive in Italy on connecting flights via other European countries.

Noting the reluctance of various countries and EU experts, the EU Health Security Committee said in a statement after Thursday’s meeting that “we need to act together and we will continue our discussions.”

Germany has also decided to wait. “There is no indication that a more dangerous form of this outbreak has developed in China, which would bring about related travel restrictions,” said Sebastian Guelde, a spokesman for the health ministry.

A coordinated EU approach is essential, as almost all member states are part of the visa-free Schengen Area. Unrestricted passenger entry means testing in one nation will not have much effect, as travelers from China could enter from another EU country and spread the virus.

The United States on Wednesday announced new COVID-19 testing requirements for all travelers from China, joining some Asian countries that have imposed restrictions because of a surge in infections.

Japan will require a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival for travelers from China, and Malaysia announced new surveillance and monitoring measures. India, South Korea and Taiwan require virus tests for people arriving from China.

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Colleen Barry in Milan and Geir Moulsen in Berlin contributed to this report.

Nation World News Desk
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