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France and UK join growing list of countries in imposing COVID restrictions | coronavirus pandemic news

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France and the United Kingdom have joined Spain and Italy in requiring travelers arriving from China to provide a negative COVID-19 test result before boarding flights.

France said on Friday the tests would have to be done less than 48 hours before departure and would be required on direct flights from China and flights with layovers, with random tests carried out on passengers on arrival.

Positive tests will be sequenced to check for new variants, the government said.

Meanwhile, UK media have reported that the country will require travelers leaving China for Britain to also provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test before boarding.

London and Paris have become the latest governments to impose restrictions on arrivals from China, where coronavirus cases have surged. On Friday, Spain’s government announced new COVID-19 regulations for passengers arriving at the country’s airports from the Asian country.

Travelers from China will be required to test negative for COVID-19 or prove they have been fully vaccinated against the disease, Spanish Health Minister Carolina Darias told a news conference.

She added that Spain would coordinate at a high level with other EU member states to adopt a common policy, while pushing for a review of current conditions that need to be met by travelers seeking to obtain the so-called EU Digital COVID Certificate.

The new measure comes after the European Union’s Committee on Health Safety met on Thursday to discuss the bloc’s strategy to mitigate the spread of the virus amid an influx of visitors from China after Beijing suspended most of its travel restrictions.

Italy, which has already required testing on arrival for all air travelers from China, has called for such measures to be extended across the EU, warning that they risk being ineffective if applied piecemeal by just a few countries in the bloc. .

But the committee, made up of officials from health ministries across the bloc and chaired by the European Commission, said it believed an EU-wide introduction of mandatory COVID-19 testing for travelers from China was currently “unwarranted”.

Meanwhile, Germany has said it is seeking a coordinated system to monitor variants at European airports, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said on Friday.

With this system, new variants of the coronavirus can be detected and appropriate measures taken quickly, said the minister, adding that “it is not yet necessary” for routine tests on passengers from China, as all the variants currently seen are already known.

The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said “increased population immunity” in the EU and the “earlier emergence and subsequent replacement of variants currently circulating in China” meant the rise in infections was unlikely to affect the bloc.

“We remain vigilant and will be ready to use the emergency brake if necessary,” added the ECDC.

Any decision made by the committee, which met frequently at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe to coordinate policy, would be advisory only.

Each EU member state is free to make its own policies, but the body’s aim is to agree on a common line and apply it across the bloc.

Portugal said it saw no need for further restrictions, while Austria stressed the economic benefits of returning Chinese tourists to Europe.

‘Discriminatory’ restrictions condemned

Outside the EU, the scale of the outbreak in China and doubts about official data have led countries including the United States, India, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan to impose their own new travel rules on Chinese visitors.

Other countries that have joined in imposing such restrictions include Malaysia, Australia and the Philippines.

Signaling Beijing’s displeasure with the measures, Chinese state media said on Thursday that the COVID-19 testing requirements imposed in response to a rising wave of infections in the country were “discriminatory”.

“The real intent is to sabotage China’s three years of COVID-19 control efforts and attack the country’s system,” state-run tabloid Global Times said in an article published late on Thursday.

The article, which denounced the restrictions as “unfounded” and “discriminatory”, marked the clearest backlash against restrictions that are slowing China’s reopening.

Having kept its borders nearly closed for three years, imposing a strict lockdown regime and relentless testing, China abruptly changed course to living with the virus on Dec. 7 after widespread protests against “zero-COVID” rules.

The lifting of restrictions has given way to a wave of infections that has spread across the country, overwhelming hospitals and funeral homes.

China, a country of 1.4 billion people, recorded a new COVID-19 death on Thursday. The number matches the one recorded the day before – figures that do not reflect other countries’ experience in relaxing virus restrictions.

China’s official death toll of 5,247 since the start of the pandemic compares with more than a million deaths in the United States. Chinese-ruled Hong Kong, a city of 7.4 million people, has reported more than 11,000 deaths.

Foreign governments and many epidemiologists believe the numbers are much higher and that more than a million people could die next year.

China has said it only counts deaths of COVID patients caused by pneumonia and respiratory failure as COVID-related.