EU urges pre-flight COVID-19 tests on passengers from China

Jan 3, 2023, 2:17 PM | Updated: Jan 4, 2023, 4:42 pm
FILE - A police robot vehicle patrols near the crowd that has returned to a mall following the easi...

FILE - A police robot vehicle patrols near the crowd that has returned to a mall following the easing of pandemic restrictions in Beijing, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023. European Union nations are fine-tuning a coordinated response to China's COVID-19 crisis on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023 and are zeroing in on travel restrictions that would upset both Beijing and the global airline industry. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)

(AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union on Wednesday “strongly encouraged” its member states to impose pre-departure COVID-19 testing of passengers from China, in a move that is likely to upset Beijing and has already been criticized by the global airline industry.

Following a week of talks between EU health experts, the bloc stopped short of agreeing that all 27 member states impose such a travel restriction that members like Italy, France and Spain had already implemented at a national level. Instead, it only urged nations to do so.

China has already vehemently rejected such actions, warning of “countermeasures” if such policies were to be imposed across the bloc.

Even though the EU presidency said in a statement that the member states “agreed on a coordinated precautionary approach,” part of the approach fell short of full agreement.

In the most crucial part of the statement, it said that “the Member States are strongly encouraged to introduce, for all passengers departing from China to Member States, the requirement for a negative COVID-19 test.”

On other issues, the EU said there was full agreement to have passengers wear masks when traveling to and from China and to offer advice on personal hygiene and health issues.

Earlier Wednesday, EU Commission spokesman Tim McPhie had said that the “overwhelming majority of countries are in favor” of imposing testing of passengers from China prior to departure. But the EU apparently could not find agreement to bind them all.

The Chinese government and European health experts have said there is no pressing need for any blanket restrictions on travel since the coronavirus variants emerging from China are already prevalent in Europe.

On Wednesday the International Air Transport Association, which represents some 300 airlines worldwide, lent its powerful voice to the protests.

“It is extremely disappointing to see this knee-jerk reinstatement of measures that have proven ineffective over the last three years,” said IATA Director General Willie Walsh.

“Research undertaken around the arrival of the omicron variant concluded that putting barriers in the way of travel made no difference to the peak spread of infections. At most, restrictions delayed that peak by a few days,” Walsh said.

Still, World Health Organization head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday he understood why numerous countries have recently taken measures against travelers coming from China, given the lack of outbreak data from the Chinese government.

The EU also said it took its approach “especially considering the need for sufficient, reliable data” coming from China. The bloc said it will reassess the situation by the middle of the month, one week after China’s easing of travel restrictions on its citizens becomes official on Jan. 8.

A day after threatening countermeasures, Chinese government spokesperson Mao Ning said Wednesday that “we sincerely hope that all parties will focus on fighting the epidemic itself, avoid the politicization of COVID.”

Still, the EU sought to take some sort of joint action to ensure incoming passengers from China do not transmit any potential new variants to the continent.

Fearful of being caught unawares like at the outset of the global pandemic in early 2020, the EU Integrated Political Crisis Response group wanted quick action, and ended up with encouragement on several issues instead of imposing measures.

Wednesday’s EU Presidency statement also said member states “are encouraged” to carry out random testing of passengers and check waste water from planes arriving from China to see if it contains dangerous variants that are not common in the continent.

Over the past week, EU nations have reacted with a chaotic cascade of national measures to the crisis in China, disregarding an earlier commitment to act in unity before anything else.

Italy — where the pandemic first exacted a heavy toll in Europe in early 2020 — was the first EU member to require coronavirus tests for airline passengers coming from China, but France and Spain quickly followed with their own measures.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

The logo for OpenAI, the maker of ChatGPT, appears on a mobile phone, in New York, Tuesday, Jan. 31...
Associated Press

Cheaters beware: ChatGPT maker releases AI detection tool

ChatGPT is trying to curb its reputation as a freewheeling cheating machine with a new tool that can help detect if artificial intelligence wrote it
13 hours ago
This undated photo provided by the Grants Pass Police Department shows Benjamin Obadiah Foster. Fos...
Rio Yamat and Andrew Selsky, Associated Press

Oregon kidnap suspect previously released the day he arrived at prison

A man at the center of an intense police search in Oregon after a violent kidnapping last week was released from custody in October 2021 by Nevada prison officials on the same day he was transferred to the state's custody to serve a kidnapping sentence, authorities said Monday.
13 hours ago
FILE - Military personnel watch as Air Force One, with President Donald Trump aboard, prepares to d...
Associated Press

Boeing bids farewell to an icon, delivers last 747 jumbo jet

SEATTLE (AP) — Boeing bids farewell to an icon on Tuesday: It’s delivering its final 747 jumbo jet. Since its first flight in 1969, the giant yet graceful 747 has served as a cargo plane, a commercial aircraft capable of carrying nearly 500 passengers, a transport for NASA’s space shuttles, and the Air Force One […]
13 hours ago
seattle police...
Associated Press

Name of Seattle officer in crash that killed woman released

Police have released the name of a Seattle police officer who was responding to a medical call when his patrol SUV hit and killed a 23-year-old Jaahnavi Kandula last week in a city crosswalk.
13 hours ago
Police investigators stand in a street near a house where three people were killed and four others ...
Associated Press

Chief: Fatal shooting at LA home was ‘targeted assault’

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A weekend shooting in which three women were killed at a short-term rental home in an upscale Los Angeles neighborhood was a targeted attack, the city’s police chief said Tuesday as investigators continued to search for suspects. Four other people were wounded, two critically, when gunfire erupted around 2:30 a.m. Saturday […]
2 days ago
Associated Press

Unexpected Pennsylvania House speaker hopes to retain job

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — The rank-and-file Democrat who was unexpectedly elected speaker of the Pennsylvania House as a compromise candidate earlier this month is saying he hopes to keep the job even after three vacant Democratic-leaning seats are filled in special elections next week. In a lengthy interview late Monday in his state Capitol suite, […]
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
EU urges pre-flight COVID-19 tests on passengers from China