Several European countries including France, Spain, Italy and the UK have imposed new Covid-19 restrictions on passengers arriving from China.
The Chinese government announced last week that it would allow its citizens to travel internationally again from 8 January as it unwinds many of its longstanding Covid restrictions, including the end of quarantine requirements for inbound travellers to China.
Although the EU was last week unable to agree on joint measures for incoming passengers from China, several member states such as France, Spain and Italy have already imposed their own new Covid rules for arrivals from China.
The UK government has also introduced “temporary measures” from 5 January requiring passengers from mainland China arriving in England to take a pre-departure Covid test, while a “sample” of arrivals will also be tested for the virus as part of a monitoring process. This rule only applies to England so far but there are no direct flights from China to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
France is adopting similar rules with the requirement for arrivals from China to take a PCR or antigen test less than 48 hours before boarding their flight to the country, as well as introducing random tests on arrival.
Meanwhile, the government in Spain said that passengers arriving from mainland China would need to provide a negative test result or prove they were fully vaccinated.
In Italy, authorities have started taking Covid antigen swabs and virus sequencing for all travellers from China at its airports. This testing regime has already begun at Milan’s Malpensa airport for passengers arriving from Beijing and Shanghai.
Outside Europe, countries such as the US, Japan, India and Australia are among those taking similar action for passengers arriving from China.
Clive Wratten, CEO of the Business Travel Association, described the UK’s move to introduce testing for passengers arriving from China as a “sucker punch to the entire travel industry”.
“Business travel was expected to take-off from January but this is a huge step backwards for customer and corporate confidence,” added Wratten.
“We urge the Department for Transport to reconsider introducing testing in favour of an enhanced sequencing programme on arrival. This alone will provide the data to protect the health of our nation rather than inching back towards being an isolated island.”
Airports association ACI Europe also “expressed regret” that several EU nations had decided to “unilaterally” impose health-related travel requirements on arrivals from China.
Olivier Jankovec, director general of ACI Europe, added: “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.”