News from China and the EU COVID department. Last Minute GERMANY, Austria, France, England, Spain headlines and events

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Faced with an influx of Chinese tourists since January 5, after the Chinese government announced an end to its “zero COVID” policy, EU countries are divided on the measures to be taken.

Following Italy, Spain and the UK, France also announced on Sunday that it is introducing a “COVID testing requirement” for Chinese passengers. Germany and Austria, on the other hand, favor cautious progress. The European Union meets on Wednesday to find a “common response” to be adopted regarding travelers from China.

The Swedish government, which takes turns holding the EU presidency to determine the fate of the EU for the next six months, has begun to activate the IPCR mechanism in the hands of the Council to ensure a rapid political response to crises. after the meeting of representatives of the ministers of health in Brussels last Thursday, it was not possible to determine a common position.

The Swedish Presidency invited representatives of EU member states to a meeting to find a common response to visitors from China, where the COVID epidemic is out of control.

In early December, China abruptly ended its strict “zero COVID” policy after widespread protests. However, the vaccination rate in a country with almost a fifth of the world’s population is very low. As COVID-19 circulates freely in China, health experts warn that the number of cases has skyrocketed, Chinese hospitals are overwhelmed, and this explosion could create a “potential breeding ground” for new options.

Antoine Flahaud, head of the Institute for Global Health at the University of Geneva, one of the prominent European scientists during the COVID epidemic, warned that “every new infection increases the likelihood of the virus mutating.”

Countries around the world such as the United States, Canada, India, South Korea, Malaysia, Japan, Israel and Morocco have announced that they have introduced a “negative test” requirement for passengers from China since January 5.

The first reaction within the EU to this decision by the Chinese administration came from the administration of Georgia Meloni in Italy, the country where the new corona virus from China first entered Europe. Italy and Spain, which have been hardest hit by the pandemic, quickly decided to require Chinese tourists to be tested, with France announcing the decision after discussing it over the weekend.

Fear of a new option

Italy and France have been testing passengers from China since January 1 and are trying to determine if any new variants of the virus have emerged. Upon arrival in France, if passengers test positive, they are allowed to enter the country subject to “self-isolation”.

The Ministry of Health has also made it mandatory to wear masks on flights from China to France. The ministry also advised tourists planning to travel to China earlier in the week, especially those “weak or immunocompromised”, to postpone travel, and those who cannot postpone travel to have a complete and up-to-date vaccination schedule. .

Germany opposes testing requirement

While France, Italy, Spain and the UK decided to apply COVID testing to travelers from China this week, Germany has opposed these restrictions and proposed a more cautious method.

The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) also highlighted Europe’s high vaccination rates, saying it “felt it unjustified” to require Chinese passengers to be tested.

The ECDC statement said EU countries “have relatively high levels of immunity and vaccination” and that “variants circulating in China are already circulating in the EU.”

Supporting this view, Germany wants European airports to set up a “tracking system” for potentially dangerous new variants of COVID-19, and to ensure that testing of passengers arriving from this country is not carried out at this stage.

The Austrian government also highlights the economic benefits of returning Chinese tourists to Europe and doesn’t want to be treated separately.

Variant tests in France

French authorities note that although the Chinese government has lifted its Covid travel ban obligations, there has been no flow of Chinese passengers to Europe. Saying that 3,000 passengers a week from China land at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, the French Ministry of Health draws attention to the fact that this number may increase in the coming weeks.

French Minister of Health François Braun, offering a pedagogical path to follow in the face of alarm, detailed the French strategy in the face of the new COVID-19 epidemic during his visit to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport.

Saying that PCR tests were carried out on passengers from China, the minister noted that only 15 people tested positive on the first flight and “they were sent the necessary instructions to self-isolate.”

From January 5, France requires all passengers arriving from China on a direct or connecting flight to submit a negative PCR or antigen test before boarding and less than 48 hours before departure.

“These checks on arrival are not a check that will prevent citizens from entering our territory, but a more scientific check that will allow us to track various options with the utmost accuracy,” Secretary Brown said. The Omicron variant continues to dominate in China, according to the health minister.

“The main cause for concern is the possibility of new uncontrolled variants appearing in China,” Spanish Health Minister Carolina Darias said.

The EU administration, on the other hand, wants a common solution approved by all member states. The Swedish Presidency has convened the member states of the European Union to meet on Wednesday (4 January) to discuss this joint response.

Return of Chinese tourists

It is claimed that tourists from China, which has a population of 1.4 billion, were spending more than $250 billion a year worldwide before the pandemic. But the US has raised concerns about possible mutations in the virus, which is spreading rapidly in the world’s most populous country. Washington also warns of a lack of transparency in China’s data.

China, which has a population of 1.4 billion, announced only 1 new death from COVID-19 last Thursday, as it had the day before. This estimate does not match the estimates recorded in other countries after the reopening.

The official death toll in China since the start of the pandemic is 5,247, while the US has recorded more than 1 million deaths. Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China with a population of 7.4 million, has reported more than 11,000 deaths.

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