European Union nations will try to build a coordinated approach to incoming airline passengers from China as the world’s most populous country is hit by a wave of COVID-19 infections and as several EU member nations announced individual efforts over the past week.
China’s abrupt U-turn on COVID controls in early December and the accuracy of its official COVID data have come under scrutiny at home and overseas, prompting a number of countries to impose travel curbs on travellers from China out of fear of introducing new variants.
Some international health experts have predicted that more than one million deaths are possible as the virus is now spreading unchecked since Beijing dropped its strict “zero-COVID” policies last month.
Sweden, which holds the rotating EU presidency, said officials from the member states will hold an Integrated Political Crisis Response meeting on Wednesday to see if entry requirements throughout the bloc are necessary for visitors from China.
“It is important that we get the necessary measures in place quickly,” Swedish Health Minister Jakob Forssmed said on Monday.
Belgium said late on Monday that it would be checking wastewater from planes arriving in from China to see if tests revealed new clues about any potentially dangerous variants among incoming passengers. It added that it would urge visitors from China who feel unwell to take a COVID test.
Belgian health minister Frank Vandenbroucke said more needed to be done, but only in a coordinated approach among the EU’s 27 member states.
“It would be a good signal toward China if all EU nations would say together: ‘If you come to Europe you have to be tested first,’” he told VRT network.
France, Spain and Italy have already announced independently that they will be implementing tougher COVID measures for passengers from China.