EU countries are “strongly encouraged” to demand COVID tests from passengers coming from China, a crisis meeting of European Union experts decided Wednesday.

The meeting also recommended that passengers to and from China wear face masks, that EU countries conduct random tests on arrivals and test wastewater from flights from China, according to a statement issued by the Swedish presidency of the EU.

Wednesday’s meeting was held to coordinate a joint EU response to a sudden inflow of visitors from China after Beijing lifted its “zero-COVID” policy that for three years had imposed strict restrictions on movement in the country when infections were detected.

Deliberations in the meeting ran hours later than initially expected by Sweden, which chaired it, suggesting differing points of view among the EU’s 27 member states.

In the end, the member states agreed to recommend a “precautionary approach” amid fears that unmonitored arrivals from China could introduce a new variant or subvariant of the coronavirus in Europe capable of evading existing vaccines.

EU countries have also expressed concern that Chinese data on COVID infections was insufficient, a view expressed Wednesday by the World Health Organization.

The statement said the member states recommended that all passengers leaving China show a negative COVID-19 result from a test taken less than 48 hours from departure.

It also suggested passengers on flights from China wear a medical mask or a surgical one that prevents small-particle transmission on flights.

And it said advice on “hygiene and health measures” should be given to incoming and outgoing international travellers as well as aircraft and airport staff.

Additionally, the experts said member states should conduct random COVID tests on incoming passengers, test wastewater from flights and airports, and continue promoting vaccinations and booster jabs.

The experts said they would continue to monitor the situation in the EU and in China “including the level of data shared”.

They said they would review the measures taken by the middle of January.

© 2023 AFP

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