Italy and US tighten entry as China re-opens
Italy has joined the US in tightening entry for travellers from China as the easing of anti-virus controls by Beijing has coincided with a surge in infections across the country.
China is to resume issuing visas and passports in a relaxation of policies which have isolated the country for almost three years, setting up a potential flood of millions of Chinese going abroad for next month’s Lunar New Year holiday.
Chinese citizens have rushed to book international flights, triggering a surge in ticket prices.
However, US officials have expressed concern at the potential for new variants to be unleashed and from 5 January will require Chinese visitors to provide a negative test.
“There are mounting concerns in the international community on the ongoing Covid-19 surges in China and the lack of transparent data, including viral genomic sequence data, being reported from the PRC,” a US official said.
Italy has now said it will screen all new arrivals from China for Covid after health officials found half of passengers on two flights into Milan from the nation were infected.
“I have ordered mandatory Covid-19 antigenic swabs, and related virus sequencing, for all passengers coming from China and transiting through Italy,” health minister Orazio Schillaci said today.
Lombardy, which was also the first region to impose a lockdown when coronavirus hit Europe in early 2020, is testing arrivals from China at Milan’s Malpensa airport at least until 30 January, the foreign ministry said.
India, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea and Taiwan have introduced measures to deal with Chinese passengers.
The UK and Germany each said they are monitoring the situation closely, but are not currently considering new restrictions for Chinese travellers. EU officials are meeting on Thursday to discuss what action is necessary.
A UK government spokesperson said: “There are no plans to reintroduce Covid-19 testing or additional requirements for arrivals into the UK.”
Hong Kong’s leader John Lee announced that his city was scrapping the last of its Covid rules almost immediately – apart from the wearing of face masks, which will remain compulsory.
“The city has reached a relatively high vaccination rate which builds an anti-epidemic barrier,” Mr Lee told a media briefing.