UK’s China arrivals policy ‘under review’ amid surging Covid infections

UK’s China arrivals policy ‘under review’ amid surging Covid infections

The UK’s Covid policy for China travellers arriving into the country is under review, according to Ben Wallace.

The Defence Secretary said: “The Government is looking at that, it’s under review, we noticed obviously what the United States has done and India and I think Italy has looked at it.

“We keep under review all the time, obviously, health threats to the United Kingdom, wherever they may be.

“I think the Department of Transport will take medical advice, talk to the Department of Health and they’ll come to some decisions depending on what we see coming out of China, but at the moment it’s under review.”

Several countries, including Italy and the United States, have this week announced mandatory testing for travellers from China, where cases are on the rise after Beijing’s decision to lift zero-Covid policies.

A report in The Telegraph claimed officials from the government’s Department for Transport (DfT), Home Office and the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) were expected to decide whether Britain should follow other countries in imposing curbs on travellers from China

A government spokeperson said on Thursday morning: “There are no plans to re-introduce Covid-19 testing or additional requirements for arrivals into the UK.”

It comes after the US announced on Wednesday that anyone arriving from China will be required to take a Covid-19 test no more than two days before travel, and provide a negative test before boarding their flight from China, Hong Kong or Macao.

The testing applies to anyone two years old and above and will come into effect from January 5.

The US follows India, Japan, Italy and Taiwan in imposing restrictions on passengers from China, with countries citing a lack of information on variants in China as a reason for the crackdown.

France has said there is ‘no reason’ to impose Covid curbs on Chinese arrivals but Brigitte Autran, head of the French health risk assessment committee COVARS added that “that could change any day.”

China has rejected criticism of its Covid data and said it expects future mutations to be potentially more transmissible but less severe.

Officials from the Department for Transport, Home Office and Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) are expected to assess whether the UK should follow suit with six non-stop flights from China with 1,795 seats, due to arrive in the next seven days, the Telegraph reports.

There are 26 direct flights due in January.

On Wednesday a spokesperson said the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) will continue to closely monitor the prevalence and spread of harmful variants and keep available international data under review.

Earlier on Wednesday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesperson said the government will continue to monitor Covid cases across the UK.

"We will continue to ensure that we have the necessary surveillance in place," he said.

But when asked specifically about restrictions on those coming from China, he said: "That’s not something we are looking at."

When the pandemic took hold in 2020, then Prime Minister Boris Johnson was criticised for the government’s handling of the public health crisis, having been slow to spot the infections arriving and late with a lockdown compared to other major countries.

Meanwhile China is grappling with overwhelmed hospitals and deaths, fuelling public concern after it scrapped three years of zero-Covid curbs in 30 days, prompting a massive wave of infections.

A small number of reported fatalities - 10 deaths since the old policy was scrapped on December 7 - and a decision by authorities to stop publishing data on cases have also fuelled distrust.

There are estimates of millions of daily cases and at least one million Covid deaths next year, Reuters reports.

Chinese officials have vowed to step up protection for key demographic groups - including millions of elderly people - boost vaccination rates and expand healthcare resources.

Experts say China has been caught ill-prepared by the abrupt U-turn in policies long championed by President Xi Jinping and implemented by trusted ally Vice Premier Sun Chunlan.