China’s abrupt switch earlier this month from the ‘zero-COVID’ policy that it had maintained for nearly three years has led to infections sweeping across the country unchecked.
Covid checks imposed by several European countries on passengers arriving from China are “scientifically unjustified” and “uncoordinated,” the International Airports Council’s European branch said on Saturday.
China’s recent end to its ‘zero Covid’ approach to the virus has led to a mass spread of Covid-19 across the country, potentially infecting millions every day, according to some international health experts.
As a result, European countries including France, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom, along with the United States, South Korea, and Australia imposed Covid testing requirements on travellers from China this week.
“These unilateral actions are at odds with all the experience and evidence gained over the past three years… imposing other restrictions for travellers from this country is neither scientifically justified nor risk based,” ACI Europe said in a statement.
The federation, which represents over 500 airports in 55 European countries, was highly critical of the “chaotic” health restrictions imposed in various countries during the pandemic’s peak.
“We are once again plunging back into a patchwork of unjustified and uncoordinated travel restrictions, which have no basis in scientific fact… These travel restrictions do not work and current arrangements for EU coordination have failed once again,” said Olivier Jankovec, ACI Europe’s director general.
Morocco will also impose a ban on people arriving from China, whatever their nationality, from January 3 to avert any new wave of coronavirus infections, the foreign ministry said on Saturday.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), one of the EU’s health agencies, stated on Thursday that systematic screening of travellers was “unjustified” given Europe’s level of immunity and the presence the same variants seen in China.
In terms of identifying potential new variants that may emerge in China, ACI Europe stated that increased surveillance with genomic sequencing can be carried out through airport waste water analysis, eliminating the need to test passengers.
In response, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization, stated that given the lack of information provided by Beijing, the precautionary measures taken by a number of states are “understandable.”
The surge in new infections in China has swamped hospitals and funeral homes across the country, with long lines of hearses outside crematoriums raising public concern.
China, a country of 1.4 billion people, reported one new Covid death on Friday, the same as the day before – figures that do not correspond to other countries’ experiences after they reopened.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for more effort and unity as the country enters a “new phase” in its approach to combating the pandemic.
“At present, the epidemic prevention and control is entering a new phase,” he said on Saturday in his first public comments on Covid-19 since his government changed course three weeks ago and relaxed its rigorous policy of lockdowns and mass testing.
“It is still a time of struggle, everyone is persevering and working hard, and the dawn is ahead. Let’s work harder. Persistence means victory, and unity means victory.”