UK imposes Covid tests on travellers from China
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British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has imposed restrictions on travellers from China amid rising concerns about the increase in Covid cases, reported 24NewsHD TV channel.
The sources said that the UK would require air passengers coming from China to have negative tests or proof of vaccination. It is pertinent that China is preparing to open up its borders in January and issue passports and visas, despite a surge in Covid-19 infections. Flu and Corona cases are on the rise again in the UK.
The UK cabinet is discussing bringing back measures for the first time since all rules were relaxed on March 18.
The US, Italy Japan and India are among the countries to have already announced mandatory tests for passengers from China due to a recent surge in infections.
About 5,000 new cases have been recorded in China each day, but analysts say the daily count could be closer to one million.
The resurgence of Covid has hit hospitals in China hard and left people struggling to find basic medical supplies.
China’s plan to allow citizens to travel abroad again has caused concern among some governments and led to restrictions being imposed.
AFP adds that Spain, South Korea and Israel on Friday joined nations imposing Covid tests on travellers from China after Beijing dropped foreign travel curbs despite surging cases.
Despite its hospitals and morgues being overwhelmed -- and international concern over the low official figures on infections and deaths there --, China insisted Friday that it had been transparent in sharing its Covid-19 data.
On Wednesday, a senior US health official said Beijing had provided only limited data to global databases about variants circulating in China, and its testing and reporting on new cases had diminished.
On Thursday, the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, also urged China to be more forthcoming on the pandemic. It was "understandable" that some countries had introduced restrictions in response to its Covid-19 surge, he said.
But on Friday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin insisted: "Since the outbreak of the epidemic, China has been sharing relevant information and data with the international community, including WHO, in an open and transparent manner.
"We shared the sequence of the new coronavirus at the first instance, thus making important contributions to the development of relevant vaccines (and) drugs in other countries."
Nevertheless, Spain, South Korea and Israel on Friday became the latest countries to impose mandatory coronavirus tests on visitors from China.
They join Italy, Japan, India, Malaysia, Taiwan and the United States in requiring negative Covid tests for all travellers from mainland China, in a bid to avoid importing new variants from the Asian giant.
In Beijing, Wang argued that health experts in several countries had decided there was no need to impose entry restrictions on travellers from China.
The European Union's infectious disease agency (ECDC) said on Thursday such restrictions were not warranted for the moment, due to the high levels of immunity in the EU and European Economic Area.
Germany seemed to take that on board Friday, saying it did not currently see the need to impose routine tests on arrivals from China. But Health Minister Karl Lauterbach did argue for a coordinated EU-wide system to monitor variants across European airports.
"We need a European solution," he said. A coordinated approach would make it easier to detect new variants of the coronavirus quickly and take appropriate measures, he added.
Justifying the restrictions Spain had decided to impose, Health Minister Carolina Darias said: "A major concern lies in the possibility of new variants appearing in China that have not been controlled. "Given the health situation in that country, we know the importance of acting with coordination, but also the importance of acting quickly," she added.
A national disease control body in China said there were about 5,500 new local cases and one death on Friday. With the end of mass testing however and the narrowing of criteria for what counts as a Covid fatality, those numbers are no longer believed to reflect reality.
Jiao Yahui, from China's National Health Commission (NHC), insisted on Thursday Beijing had always published data "on Covid-19 deaths and severe cases in the spirit of openness and transparency". The NHC said last week it would no longer release an official daily Covid death toll.
But health risk analysis firm Airfinity said it currently estimates 9,000 daily deaths and 1.8 million infections per day in China, and it expects 1.7 million fatalities across the country by the end of April 2023.
The Britain-based research firm said its model was based on data from China's regional provinces before changes to reporting infections were implemented, combined with case growth rates from other former zero-Covid countries when they lifted restrictions.
China said this month it would end mandatory quarantine for people arriving in the country and that it had abandoned strict measures to contain the virus.
The world's most populous country will downgrade its management of Covid-19 from January 8, treating it as a Class B infection rather than a more serious Class A.