EU recommends compulsory testing for travelers from China

EU recommends compulsory testing for travelers from China

Berlin, Brussels Travelers from China to the EU should in future have to show a negative corona PCR test. Health experts from the EU countries agreed on this in a crisis meeting, as the Swedish Council Presidency announced on Wednesday evening after the meeting. The test should not be older than 48 hours. The EU states are now “strongly urged” to take the measure, which is a somewhat softer formulation than an official “recommendation” by the EU.

There was also agreement that passengers should wear a medical or FFP2 mask on board the aircraft. The decision is not binding for the individual EU states. In addition, it is recommended that travelers from China be randomly tested for Corona when they arrive in the EU. Positive samples should be sequenced. In addition, the waste water from airports where machines from China arrive should be examined.

Physicians doubt the sense of mandatory testing. “These demands are a rush job. It’s not at all clear what you want to achieve with it,” said the head of hospital hygiene at the University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf, Johannes Knobloch. “We will definitely have imports from China. Testing can reduce the number of these introductions, but cannot prevent them entirely.”

These introductions cause little concern for doctors. Because unlike in China, the corona virus in Europe has had the opportunity to change for years and thereby bypass the immune protection in the population. “Dangerous mutations usually prevail when there is also evolutionary pressure,” said virologist Jana Schroeder. “There is currently no such thing in China.” Doctors speak of an “immune flight” when a virus changes in such a way that the existing protection through vaccination or infection is less effective. This includes the omicron variant.

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Few samples in Germany

Schroeder does not expect this effect to become even stronger with a new variant: “The immunity through vaccination and recovery is already very broad, the protection against serious illness and death will in all likelihood also be good with other variants,” she said . “The probability of transmission at Omikron is also very high, there is only little room for improvement.”

Conventional tests are unsuitable for detecting a dangerous variant that nevertheless occurs. This requires sequencing, which is carried out less frequently in Germany than in Great Britain, for example.

>> Read here: China is opening up quickly – but the corona situation is still tense

“Even in Germany, there is still a lack of representative samples that could be used to reliably record infections and quickly identify new variants,” said Claudia Denkinger, head of the Department of Infectious Medicine at Heidelberg University Hospital. The mandatory testing decisions are politically driven. “Epidemiologically, they make no sense,” she said.

The federal government seems to see it similarly. One is primarily interested in setting up virus variant monitoring, said a spokesman for the Ministry of Health in Berlin. The variants that are common in China are still the ones that circulate in Europe.

One way of detecting virus variants is waste water monitoring, as is already being practiced at Frankfurt Airport, for example. Of course, this can still be expanded, for example by examining the wastewater from individual flights, said the spokesman. However, he also emphasized that the government is striving for a uniform European regulation in the EU. Several countries have announced that they will require proof of testing upon departure. In Italy, even a test upon entry is mandatory.

Family in the airport in Beijing

Numerous countries around the world have now tightened entry requirements for people from China.

(Photo: AP)

These regulations have angered the Chinese authorities. On Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry threatened the consequences. “We do not believe that the measures some countries have taken against China have any scientific basis,” she said. Some of these measures are disproportionate and simply unacceptable. “We firmly oppose using Covid measures for political purposes and will take appropriate measures in response to different situations based on the principle of reciprocity.”

In fact, even after the end of the quarantine obligation, all travelers are still obliged to take a test in China. “All passengers traveling to China are required to take a PCR test within 48 hours before departure for China,” says the Chinese embassy’s website on entry requirements from January 8. Only those who have a negative test result are allowed to travel to China.

Meanwhile, the hospitals in Germany are still very busy due to other infections, and some examinations are being canceled. “At the moment, patients at risk should be particularly careful not to get sick,” said Cihan Celik from the Darmstadt Clinic. “It might make sense to demand proof of vaccination when entering the EU.” Vaccination can prevent serious cases of illness that would put an additional strain on the health system.

The Chinese Vaccines Sinovac and Sinopharm are not yet approved in the EU. The government in Beijing has so far rejected vaccines from Western countries.

More: Corona in China: there is hope for a new type of nasal spray and drug from the West

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