People wait in the arrivals area of Terminal 5 at Heathrow International Airport.
Carlos Barria | Reuters
LONDON – Britain and France said Thursday morning they had no current plans to reintroduce mandatory Covid-19 testing or additional requirements for travelers entering the country.
It comes as several nations announced new measures in response to China’s easing of Covid restrictions amid a suspected rise in infections but reduced domestic testing. Beijing ended its quarantine on arrival on Monday, prompting many to book their first overseas trips in years.
Italy, the center of the first outbreak in Europe in early 2020, became the first country in the region to announce on Wednesday that mandatory antigen swabs would be required of all travelers from China.
On a December 26 flight from China to Milan’s Malpensa Airport, 52% of passengers tested positive for Covid, la Repubblica reported.
European Union health officials were locked in talks on Thursday to try to coordinate a response.
“From a scientific point of view, there is no reason at this stage to reintroduce border controls,” said Brigitte Autran, head of France’s COVARS health risk assessment committee, according to a Reuters report on French radio Classique.
German, Portuguese and Austrian officials also seemed reluctant to introduce new measures.
However, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni told a press conference that her country’s testing measures may be ineffective if not implemented across the EU, as many travelers enter Italy via other Schengen countries.
She said preliminary testing showed Covid-positive travelers from China were aware of Omicron variants, Reuters reported.
Italy’s National Institute for Infectious Diseases reportedly called for an increase in testing for people arriving from China. “It would be better if the surveillance was coordinated at European level,” the institute said, according to a translation of the Ansa news agency.
“Italy cannot be the only country implementing anti-Covid controls at airports for Chinese arrivals,” Italian Transport Minister Matteo Salvini said on Twitter.
The US said from January 5 all arrivals from mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau must present a negative Covid test taken within two days of departure.
India will require a negative test from passengers arriving from China, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Thailand, with passengers being quarantined if they test positive or exhibit Covid symptoms.
Japan and Taiwan will conduct tests upon arrival of passengers from mainland China.
While the UK government said there were no plans to reintroduce Covid testing or additional requirements for arrivals in the country, it said it would monitor the situation until Thursday.
It could herald a change in policy, particularly if a wave of other European countries reintroduce testing.
Officials have cited a lack of published information from China about new variants as a reason for increased precautionary measures.
Beijing says its latest outbreak is due to the highly transmissible but less deadly Omicron variant. But a lack of data and the country’s track record of obscuring reality has led many nations to tread cautiously.