The United Kingdom has now made it compulsory for Chinese travelers to produce a negative Covid test before entering the country. In response to concerns that Beijing is hiding data on the virus, PM Rishi Sunak brought the dramatic action of reintroducing these journey restrictions.
He moderated just one day after health directors voted against checks, following high-level talks with ministries and No. 10 officials.
In Sunak, pre-departure testing requires more credibility in Chinese infection data and vaccination protection.
After the rules quickly stopped their “zero-Covid” policy, Downing Street insiders argued that the “precautionary and temporary” action would strengthen surveillance of the illness ravaging China’s 1.4 billion people.
According to experts, 100,000 people have died, and at least 18 million Chinese have been sick this month alone. But, just a small number of patients have been documented, despite health officials’ closure of testing facilities. There are rising problems that China’s development may result in an aggressive new Covid-19 version.
Britain’s action aligns it with other nations that now require travelers from China to submit to Covid testing.
France made a late-night announcement that it would demand travelers to present negative tests at most 48 hours along with their flight certificates and conduct random testing upon arrival.
Several nations announced they would be screening travelers from China after claims surged following Beijing’s decision to settle its zero-Covid policy.
China has said it will completely reopen its walls on 8 January.
Several nations, including the US, France, and India, were charged tests.
The Departments of Health and Social Care said people crossing from China on direct flights from 5 January asked to bring a pre-departure Covid test.
From 8 January, the UK Health Security Agency resolves launch oversight, which will see a selection of passengers coming from China tested for the virus as they come.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay said the government’s “balanced and precautionary approach,” counting the measures, were “temporary” as officials assess the latest Covid data.
The testing condition spreads to people flying to English airports. The government articulates that while there is no direct aviation from China to Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland, it operates with the devolved administrations to ensure the policy is applied UK-wide.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has named Beijing to transmit “real-time” data on Covid, including deaths, hospitalizations, and vaccinations.
The UN body said to support data-sharing, adding that it was “understandable” that some countries were now imposing new restrictions.
China’s foreign church said earlier this week that its “epidemic situation” was “predictable and under control.”
The Chinese government reports about 5,000 cases daily, but analysts say such a number vast undercounted – and the daily caseload may be closer to one million.
The toll of daily cases and deaths in China is unknown as officials have stopped requiring patients to be reported and changed classifications for Covid deaths.
The UK government said its finding was due to a need for complete health information shared by China.
Spain, Israel, and South Korea also announced on Friday that they would introduce testing requirements in response to the increasing number of infections in China.
Some scientists have challenged the approach of the UK and US – saying it is better to screen people once they have arrived. Italy and Spain have submitted post-arrival testing.
But not all countries have announced additional control. Germany has joined Australia and Portugal, saying there will be no new rules.
Prof Andrew Pollard, director of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said the rules are unlikely to prevent new Covid variants from reaching the UK. It took a lot of work to know what effect such a movement would have here.
He told BBC News: “Trying to deny a virus by altering what we do with travel has already been shown not to work very well.
“We’ve seen that with the prohibitions on travel from different countries during the pandemic, that hasn’t stopped those viruses traveling around the world eventually.”
But there is the problem that more infections can deliver more options for the virus to mutate.
Countries that plan to test travelers say the policy will help sprinkle worrying new variants before and stop an inflow of patients.
The US Center for Disease Controls and Prevention said testing tourists from China, Hong Kong, and Macau was required “to help slow the virus’s reach as we work to identify… any possible new variants that may emerge”.
The government also came under pressure from Conservative MPs who wanted a more robust response.
The new requirements for a traveler from China to provide negative tests are welcome by Tory MP Steve Brine, chairman of the Commons fitness and social care representatives.
He informed BBC Radio 4’s Today schedule that the move would decrease the number of passengers with conditions and help to determine new disease variants.
But he said the policy was not around attempting to “ban a virus” – adding that ministers were not trying to replicate the “Beijing stupidity of an unattainable zero-Covid policy.”