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EU strongly recommends that travelers from China take a Covid test before entering Europe

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European nations are looking at new travel requirements from China after Beijing lifted Covid restrictions.

China News Service | China News Service | Getty Images

European nations on Wednesday recommended imposing new restrictions on travelers from China amid fears of a spike in Covid cases.

Passengers departing China will likely have to show a negative Covid test before leaving the country if they are heading to one of the 27 EU countries. They will also likely be asked to wear face masks during flights and potentially be subjected to random testing upon arrival.

“Member States agreed on a coordinated precautionary approach in light of Covid-19 developments in China,” said a statement released on Wednesday after a meeting of EU officials that lasted several hours.

Health policy is under the jurisdiction of individual governments. It is up to the various capitals to decide whether to follow the EU’s recommendations. Several EU countries have already stepped up their protective measures against possible new cases from China.

Chinese officials have recently criticized the testing requirements imposed on travelers to the country and threatened to take reciprocal countermeasures. China currently requires foreign visitors to present a negative Covid-19 test before entering the country, as well as being quarantined for eight days upon arrival. Beijing intends to lift the lockdown requirement next weekend, but will continue to require proof of negative Covid-19 tests from visitors from abroad. In December, it also said it would restart issuing visas for residents to travel abroad.

The US, India, UK, Japan and Australia have announced tougher measures for travelers from China in a bid to prevent a spike in Covid cases.

Italy was one of the first EU countries to act after Beijing abruptly abandoned the strict measures that had been in place for much of the pandemic.

EU recommends pre-departure Covid testing for flights from China

Rome, one of Europe’s hardest hit by the pandemic, ordered mandatory testing last week. France and Spain also adopted similar postures.

The latest move by the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, aims to coordinate rules across the region.

In late December, Chinese authorities said they would restart issuing visas for residents to travel abroad. They also said that travelers arriving in China will no longer need to be quarantined.

However, China has experienced a rise in Covid infections since November and there are concerns about the level of immunization among its population. The country has nine domestically developed vaccines, according to Reuters, but these have not been updated for the omicron variant, considered highly infectious.

European officials have offered to send vaccines to China, but Beijing has yet to respond, according to a European Commission spokesman.

The commission’s spokesperson told CNBC that the EU reached out through its delegation in Beijing “to offer solidarity and support, including through sharing public health expertise and donations of variant-adapted EU vaccines”.

Asked on Tuesday about Europe’s offer to supply Covid vaccines, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning replied: “China has established the world’s largest production lines for Covid vaccines, with an annual production capacity of more than 7 billion doses and an annual production of more than 5.5 billion doses, which meet the needs of ensuring that all persons eligible for vaccination have access to Covid vaccines.”

“The Covid situation in China is predictable and under control,” he added.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that European officials on Wednesday recommended pre-flight testing of travelers from China.