Markets: Live

Italy and US tighten entry as China reopens

white paper protest in China
White paper demonstrations forced the Chinese government to relax controls

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.

“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.

Japan and India have also introduced PCR testing on arrival for Chinese passengers.

The UK and Germany each said they are monitoring the situation closely, but are not currently considering new restrictions for Chinese travellers.

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.


The FTSE 100 index closed off its highs at 7,497.19, up 24.18 points (0.32%) as traders returned from the Christmas break and caught up with gains on European exchanges.

Miners led the charge as China prepared to reopen its borders. Antofagasta, Glencore and Anglo American were all up strongly. National Grid and Prudential were also among the top risers.

Among mid-size stocks, James Fisher climbed 2.3% in early trade, after announcing the sale of its Subtech Swordfish dive support vessel for $24 million.

The marine services provider said the agreement allows it to maintain access to the vessel until the end of the third quarter of 2023, allowing it to complete existing and potential customer commitments.

In the US on Tuesday, Wall Street ended mixed, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average ending up 0.1%, the S&P 500 down 0.4% and the Nasdaq Composite down 1.4%.

In Asia today, Japan’s Nikkei 225 index closed down 0.4%. In China, the Shanghai Composite was 0.3% lower, while the Hang Seng index in Hong Kong finished 1.6% higher.

The pound was quoted at $1.2044 at early on Wednesday in London, higher compared to $1.2027 at the close on Friday.

Brent oil was quoted at $84.24 a barrel.

Positive outlook

The majority of Scottish businesses expect 2023 to be more successful than 2022, despite challenging economic forecasts, according to the latest data from Lloyds Bank.

Almost two-thirds of the country’s firms (63%) said they are confident they would have greater success in the coming 12 months, compared to the past year.

The research was carried out between 1 and 14 December as part of additional polling for the monthly Lloyds Bank Business Barometer.

According to the Bank of Scotland Business barometer published last week (21 Dec), business confidence in Scotland fell nine points during December to 15%.

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