EU urges members to step up Covid variant sequencing amid China surge


EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides on Friday urged health ministers to step up Covid-19 variant sequencing amidst a surge in infections in China.

In a letter to health ministers of the EU's 27 members, Stella Kyriakides said the bloc should be "very vigilant" as China lifted travel restrictions earlier this month as reliable epidemiological and testing data for China were quite scarce.

Having kept its borders shut for three years, Beijing abruptly reversed course toward living with the virus on 7 December, and infections have spread rapidly in recent weeks.

'Assessing current practices on sequencing'

Kyriakides advised ministers to assess their current practices on genomic sequencing of the coronavirus "as an immediate step".

If sequencing had been scaled down, countries might want to consider scaling it back up, she wrote, adding that it was important to continue or start surveillance of waste water, including sewage from key airports.

If a new variant appeared, the bloc needed to detect it early to be able to react quickly, the commissioner wrote.

Health experts are expected to hold a crisis response meeting next week, according to an EU source.

Italy has urged the rest of the European Union to follow its lead and test travellers from China, but most EU members have said they saw no need to do so.

Kyriakides said some EU members had proposed measures such as the random testing of travellers.

(with wires)

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