Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Brussels to discuss ‘coordinated approach’ to explosion of COVID-19 cases in China

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The European Commission has called for a meeting to discuss possible measures for a ‘coordinated approach’ on travellers from China after Beijing announced the easing of travel restrictions.

Beijing loosened its strict zero-tolerance rules earlier this month and has now given residents the green light to travel abroad. It will also scrap quarantine requirements for international arrivals from January 8th.

However, Brussels has expressed concern about China’s lack of transparency surrounding the recent surge in cases.

“In light of the situation of the pandemic in China”, the European executive will convene a committee on Thursday morning bringing together representatives from the Twenty-Seven ministries of health, a spokesperson for the Commission said.

“The BF.7 Omicron variant that is prevalent in China is already present in Europe and has not increased significantly there. However, we remain vigilant and ready to use an emergency brake if necessary”.

At the beginning of December, on the recommendation of the Commission, the 27 member states had agreed to remove all restrictions for travellers entering the EU from third countries.

However, the US, India and Japan, South Korea and Taiwan have already introduced compulsory testing for all incoming travellers from China amid concerns about new variants.

Italy says it will begin to test all arrivals from China and has urged neighbouring EU members to do the same.

While there have been no reports of new variants to date, given the country’s track record, the worry is that China may not be sharing data on any signs of evolving strains that could spark fresh outbreaks elsewhere.

Elsewhere in the EU, other countries are waiting: France’s President Emmanuel Macron has “requested appropriate measures to protect” the French and has ensured that the government will “follow very carefully the evolution of the situation in China”.

Paris says it is “ready to study all the useful measures that could be implemented as a result, in conjunction with France’s European partners, and within the legal framework that exists today”.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said last week that China has always shared its information responsibly with the WHO and the international community.

“We stand ready to work with the international community in solidarity to tackle the COVID challenge more effectively, better protect people’s lives and health and jointly restore steady economic growth and build a global community of health for all,” she said.

China rolled back many of its tough pandemic restrictions earlier this month, allowing the virus to spread in a country that had seen relatively few infections since an initial devastating outbreak in the city of Wuhan in early 2020.

The spiralling of infections led to shortages of medicine, long lines at fever clinics, and emergency rooms turning away patients because they were at capacity. Cremations have risen several-fold, with a request from overburdened funeral homes in the city of Guangzhou for families to postpone funeral services until next month.

China has not reported this widely and blamed Western media for hyping up the situation. The government has been accused of controlling information about the outbreak since the start of the pandemic.

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