Airports Council International Europe, the body that represents airport operators across the continent, has expressed regret regarding the actions of a number of States within the European Union and globally for unilaterally imposing health-related travel requirements including systematic pre-departure or on-arrival testing of travellers from China.
In a press statement, ACI Europe says that these unilateral actions are at odds with all the experience and evidence gained over the past three years. The ineffectiveness of international travel restrictions in preventing the spread of Covid-19 and its multiple Variants of Concern (VOCs) has been unequivocally recognised by both the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Testing travellers from China and/or imposing other restrictions for travellers from this country is neither scientifically justified nor risk based, as expressly stated in recent days by the ECDC.
As States need to remain vigilant to the status and control of the virus, the focus should rather be on increasing genomic sequencing to be able to identify possible new Covid-19 variants and related surveillance. Such an approach, as urged by EU Health Commissioner Kyriakides in a letter sent earlier this week to Member States, does not require the testing of travellers but can be achieved by means such as the testing of wastewater from airports.
“We are once again plunging back into a patchwork of unjustified and uncoordinated travel restrictions, which have no basis in scientific fact. Clearly we still have to learn the painful lessons of the past years. These travel restrictions do not work and current arrangements for EU coordination have failed once again,” says Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI Europe.
A number of EU States have instituted varying restrictions on visitors from China. While France will require travellers from China to provide a negative Covid-19 test result less than 48 hours before departure. The test will be required on all flights from China, including flights with stopovers. Travellers on airplanes arriving from China will also have to wear masks. From January 1, France has also been carrying out random PCR Covid-19 tests upon arrival on some travellers coming from China, a government official told reporters.
Similarly, the UK says it will require a pre-departure negative Covid-19 test from passengers from China as of January 5, the Department of Health has said.
Italy has ordered Covid-19 antigen swabs and virus sequencing for all travellers from China. Milan’s main airport, Malpensa, had already started testing passengers arriving from Beijing and Shanghai. ‘‘The measure is essential to ensure surveillance and detection of possible variants of the virus in order to protect the Italian population,’’ Health Minister Orazio Schillaci has said.
Spain will require a negative Covid-19 test or a full course of vaccination against the disease upon arrival for travellers from China, the country’s Health Minister Carolina Darias said.
The United States will impose mandatory Covid-19 tests on travellers from China beginning on January 5. All air passengers aged two and older will require a negative result from a test no more than two days before departure from China, Hong Kong or Macau. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also said US citizens should also reconsider travel to China, Hong Kong and Macau.
In Asia, Japan will require a negative Covid-19 test upon arrival for travellers from mainland China. Those who test positive will be required to quarantine for seven days. New border measures for China went into effect at midnight on December 30. The government will also limit requests from airlines to increase flights to China.
India has mandated a Covid-19 negative test report for travellers arriving from China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Thailand, the health minister said. Passengers from those countries will be quarantined if they show symptoms or test positive. Malaysia will screen all inbound travellers for fever and test wastewater from aircraft arriving from China for Covid-19, Minister Zaliha Mustafa has said in a statement.
Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Centre has said all passengers on direct flights from China, as well as by boat at two offshore islands, have been mandated to take PCR tests upon arrival, starting on January 1. South Korea will require travellers from China to provide negative Covid-19 test results before departure, South Korea’s News1 news agency reported on Friday.