EU rejects Italy’s request to impose Covid curbs on arrivals from China

The EU has rejected Italy’s request to re-impose travel restrictions on arrivals from China, as capitals around the world take different approaches to the growing number of coronavirus infections. increase in this country.

EU officials at a meeting on Thursday disapproved of a call from Giorgia Meloni, Italy’s prime minister, for the bloc to jointly follow Rome’s move to inspect all incoming flights from China. in response to Beijing’s sudden decision to lift all Covid-free policies and let the virus run its course.

Meloni warned Brussels that the mandatory Italian inspection, announced on Wednesday, would be “ineffective if it is not complied with at the European level”. She added: “We wish Europe would go in this direction.”

Instead, France, Germany and other EU countries argue that the situation does not warrant a change in their national policies. Coronavirus policy.

The EU Health and Security Committee, which includes member state officials, agreed on Thursday that “coordination of national responses to serious cross-border threats to Health is very important,” adding: “We need joint action and will continue to talk.”

The European Commission, the bloc’s governing body, says the BF.7 Omicron variant, popular in China, is already available in Europe.

“However, we remain vigilant and will be ready to use the emergency brake if necessary,” the commission said, adding that it “could be activated if necessary to re-impose restrictions.” in a coordinated manner”.

The debate over the re-imposition of pandemic travel restrictions, which have been lifted in Western countries for most of the past year, is the latest impact on Beijing’s decision to remove the draconian policies of no Covid, which has caused a wave of corona virus to infect tens of millions of people in China. China everyday.

The sharp increase in infections and massive international travel bookings from China have forced the US to Request a negative test result for newcomers. Japan, India and Taiwan have also imposed screening requirements on Chinese visitors, ahead of the influx of visitors.

Stocks fell in Asia and Europe on Thursday as investors worried about the impact of the rally on the global economy.

Orazio Schillaci, Italy’s health minister, said the country will use genetic sequencing of the positive test results to determine whether new variants have emerged in China. There is concern that any new strain could pose a greater health threat than the already circulating variants for which the vaccine being used in the West offers good protection.

Italy says 52% of passengers on a post-Christmas flight from China to Milan have tested positive for coronavirus. The EU single-visa Schengen area means there are no restrictions for people moving around most of the bloc.

Following Thursday’s meeting of the EU commission, the French Health Ministry said the negotiations underscored the need for a coherent EU strategy, as well as the need for more data and continued implementation of measures. protect people and inform tourists.

But it added that “at this stage, the number of Chinese visitors to Europe is limited and will remain so for several weeks, while China’s reopening measures are in place and there are effect”.

The governments of the Nordic countries and the UK also said they had no plans to follow in Italy’s footsteps or were waiting for more information.

Health authorities say Norway and Finland are not considering imposing any conditions on arrivals from China because there have been a significant number of Covid-19 cases in these countries and very few travelers visitors from this Asian country at this time of year.

“It makes no sense,” Jari Jalava, an infectious disease specialist at Finland’s health agency, told state broadcaster Yle.

The German health ministry said it was “closely monitoring the situation and working closely with international partners”. Spokesman Sebastian Gülde said: “So far, the Ministry of Health has no indication that any kind of worrisome variation has emerged in the context of the outbreak in China, compared with variants. currently circulating in Germany.”

The UK government has also said it is considering whether to conduct Covid tests on people arriving from China, but insists there are “no plans” to reintroduce controls at the border.

A government official said that Britain had already experienced the wave of Omicrons that is engulfing China, adding: “Our vaccine works and our vaccination rates are excellent.”

However, the UK’s Health Security Agency is monitoring the prevalence and spread of harmful variants and Downing Street said all available international data will be reviewed.

Additional reporting by Giuliana Ricozzi in Rome, Richard Milne in Oslo, Barney Jopson in Madrid and Guy Chazan in Berlin

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