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Most EU nations back pre-departure COVID testing for China travelers

MARK OLSEN-UNSPLASH

BRUSSELS — Most European Union (EU) countries favor introducing pre-departure COVID testing for travelers from China, the European Commission said on Tuesday, as Beijing plans to lift travel restrictions on its citizens despite a wave of COVID infections.

The common EU approach emerged after a meeting on Tuesday of the Health Security Committee, an EU advisory body of national health experts from the EU’s 27 countries and chaired by the Commission.

“The overwhelming majority of countries are in favor of pre-departure testing,” a Commission spokesman said.

“These measures would need to be targeted at the most appropriate flights and airports and carried out in a coordinated way to ensure their effectiveness,” he said.

The Commission on Tuesday prepared a draft proposal for the talks, which included a recommendation for mask wearing on flights from China, wastewater monitoring for aircraft arriving from China, genomic surveillance at airports and increased monitoring and sequencing and increased EU vigilance on testing and vaccination.

“This will now be revised and adopted based on the input of (EU) Member States,” the Commission spokesman said, adding more talks on the measures would take place at another meeting of EU health officials on Wednesday afternoon.

The spokesman said all EU countries agreed they needed a coordinated approach to the changing situation in China and to deal with implications of increased travel from China to Europe after China lifts its stringent pandemic polices on Jan. 8.

The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control said last week it did not currently recommend measures on travelers from China.

It said the variants circulating in China were already in the European Union, that EU citizens had relatively high vaccination levels and the potential for imported infections was low compared to daily infections in the EU, with healthcare systems currently coping. — Reuters

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