EU offers help, prepares to counter China's COVID crisis

AP , Tuesday 3 Jan 2023

The European Union said Tuesday it has offered China help to deal with its COVID-19 crisis, including the donation of vaccines, as the bloc seeks to coordinate how authorities should check incoming passengers from China for any new variants.

A traveller of a flight from China walks through the COVID-19 testing booths at the Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle airport in Roissy, outside Paris, on January 1, 2023, as France reinforces health measures at the borders for passengers arriving from China. AFP

Several member nations announced individual efforts over the past week. At the same time, the EU's European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control insisted that the situation in China didn't pose an immediate overall threat to health.

"The variants circulating in China are already circulating in the EU, and as such are not challenging for the immune response'' of EU citizens, it said in its latest impact study published Tuesday.

Yet fearful not to be caught unawares like at the outset of the global pandemic in early 2020, medical experts from EU member states were already preparing potential action to be taken up by an Integrated Political Crisis Response meeting on Wednesday, where measure like EU-wide entry requirements could be decided.

"Travelers from China need to be prepared for decisions being taken at short notice,'' Sweden, which holds the EU presidency, warned in a statement.

The European Commission said Tuesday that over the past several days that the bloc had already reached out to Beijing to offer help, including expertise, medical information and vaccine donation. No specific information was immediately available. The Financial Times first broke the news.

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

Italy was the first EU member in requiring coronavirus tests for airline passengers coming from China, but several others have said such measures might not be the best option to protect local populations since new variants now coming from China have already been around in Europe, often for many months.

France, Spain and Italy have already announced independent measures to implement tougher COVID-19 measures for passengers arriving from China.

France's government is requiring negative tests, and is urging French citizens to avoid nonessential travel to China. France is also reintroducing mask requirements on flights from China to France.

Spain's government said it would require all air passengers coming from China to have negative tests or proof of vaccination.

The United States announced new COVID-19 testing requirements Wednesday for all travelers from China, joining some Asian nations that had imposed restrictions because of a surge of infections.

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