UK and France say no plans currently to follow Italy with Covid tests for China arrivals

People are seen waiting at the arrivals area of terminal 5 at Heathrow International airport.
Carlos Barria | Reuters
LONDON — The U.K. and France said Thursday morning they currently had no plans to reintroduce mandatory Covid-19 tests or additional requirements for travelers arriving into the country.

U.K. Defense Minister Ben Wallace said Thursday afternoon he expected to “see some clarification” either Thursday or Friday from the country’s Department for Transport as to any new rules for arrivals.

It comes as several nations announced new measures in response to China’s relaxation of Covid restrictions amid a suspected surge of infections but reduced domestic testing. Beijing on Monday dropped its quarantine on arrival policy, leading many to book their first overseas trips in years.

Italy, the center of Europe’s initial outbreak in early 2020, on Wednesday became the first country in the region to announce that mandatory antigen swabs would be required of all travelers coming from China.

On one Dec. 26 flight from China into Milan’s Malpensa Airport, 52% of passengers tested positive for Covid, la Repubblica reported.

European Union health officials were locked in talks Thursday to try to coordinate a response.

“From a scientific point of view, there is no reason at this stage to bring back controls at the borders,” Brigitte Autran, head of the French health risk assessment committee COVARS, said on France’s Radio Classique, according to a Reuters report.

German, Portuguese and Austrian officials also appeared reluctant to introduce new measures.

But Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni told a press conference her country’s testing measures may be ineffective if they are not implemented across the EU since many travelers enter Italy through other Schengen countries.

She said preliminary tests showed that Covid-positive travelers from China had known omicron variants, Reuters reported.

Italy’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases reportedly called for an increase in testing for those arriving from China. “It would be better if the coordination of surveillance should take place at European level,” the institute said, according to a translation by the Ansa news agency.

“Italy cannot be the only country to carry out anti-Covid checks at airports for those arriving from China,” Italian Transport Minister Matteo Salvini said on Twitter, per a Google translation.

The U.S. said from Jan. 5. all arrivals from mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau must supply 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 put into quarantine if they have a positive test or display Covid symptoms.

Japan and Taiwan will perform tests on arrival for passengers from mainland China.

While the U.K. government said there were no plans to reintroduce Covid tests or additional requirements for arrivals into the country, it said it would monitor the situation through Thursday.

It could announce a change in policy, especially if a wave of other European countries reintroduce testing.

Officials have cited a lack of published information from China on new variants as a reason to strengthen precautions.

Beijing says its latest outbreak is down to the highly transmissible, but less deadly, omicron variant. But a lack of data and the country’s track record of obfuscating reality has meant that many nations are taking a cautious approach.

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