Could the UK impose new Covid travel restrictions?

After Italy, the US and many other countries imposed restrictions on travelers arriving from China, what is the likelihood that the UK could follow suit?

These are the key questions and answers.

What new rules are there and why?

From January 5, arrivals to the United States from China must show a negative Covid-19 test result or proof of recent recovery from the virus.

The rule also applies to “special administrative regions” – Hong Kong and Macau – as well as for travelers arriving from the country via key hubs of Toronto, Vancouver and Seoul.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has moved after Beijing lifted its “zero Covid” policy, leading to a rapid rise in infections across China.

The CDC said the tests were needed due to a “lack of adequate and transparent viral genomic and epidemiological data reported” by Chinese authorities.

“These data are critical to effectively tracking the increase in cases and reducing the possibility of entry of a new variant of concern,” the CDC said.

“Pre-departure testing and the requirement to show a negative test result has been shown to reduce the number of infected passengers boarding aircraft and will help slow the spread of the virus as we work to identify and understand any new variants that could emerge”.

Any officially approved test, conducted no more than two days before departure from China, will suffice. Medically documented proof of an infection at least 10 days prior will also be accepted.

The US move came at the same time Hong Kong lifted nearly all travel restrictions on vaccinated visitors in a bid to rebuild its tourism industry.

What are other countries doing?

The new US requirement follows similar moves from India, Italy, Japan and Taiwan.

Italy it was the first European country where the coronavirus spread rapidly after being imported from China. Health Minister Horace Schillac said pre-departure testing was now mandatory for passengers arriving from the People’s Republic, with testing on arrival for travelers whose condition is of concern.

Reports from Italy say more than half of the passengers who arrived in Milan on two flights from China earlier this week had tested positive for Covid.

From 1 January 2023 you arrive at India Those arriving from China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Thailand will need to upload a negative Covid-19 PCR test result – obtained within the previous 72 hours – to Air Suvidha, a government website, before departing for India.

Currently one in 50 of international arrivals to India – from anywhere in the world – is selected for random testing.

From December 30, Japan it is imposing tests on arrival for anyone who has been to China in the past week. Those who test positive will be admitted to a Covid recovery facility for a week.

TaiwanChina’s Central Epidemic Command Center said PCR testing on arrival will be required for people arriving from mainland China from January 1, 2023.

Will the UK follow suit by demanding tests?

Not currently. A government spokesman said The independent: “There are no plans to reintroduce Covid-19 testing or additional requirements for arrivals in the UK.”

However, the UK Health Security Agency will continue to monitor the prevalence and spread of potentially harmful variants.

Does everyone agree that no testing is needed?

No. Former health minister Lord Bethell, appointed at the start of the Covid pandemic, told the BBC Today programme: “What the Italians are doing is post-flight surveillance on arrivals in Italy to understand if there are any emerging variants and to understand the impact of the virus on the Italian health system. It’s a sensible thing to do and something the UK government should seriously consider.”

Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency and campaigner against draconian Covid restrictions, said: ‘I think it is inevitable that the UK will follow the move of several other countries to impose more restrictions on those who fly from China.

“There is a huge knowledge gap about the impact of Covid in China and ministers will not want to risk doing nothing to monitor the flow of Covid into the UK from China. It is relatively easy for the UK government to ask airlines to insist on negative Covid tests at departure point from a specific country.

“Ministers have learned to share a lot more health information with other countries since the start of Covid, and you cannot allow Italy and the US to do a thing while the UK rests on its laurels. So I expect changes within the next week, just before China lifts its restrictions on Jan. 8.”

The independent he asked the Labor Party whether it supports calls for new tests for arrivals from China. During the height of the pandemic, shadow ministers have consistently called for tighter travel restrictions.

What do the scientists say?

Christina Pagel, Professor of Operations Research at UCL, he wrote on Twitter: “I have been asked if I think the UK should start testing/quarantining travelers from China given their ongoing big wave.

“My answer is: when and for what purpose? So that determines whether it makes sense.

“If it is a question of reducing the number of cases in the UK, testing/quarantining from China is completely useless. We already have a lot of Covid here, have had it for years and there is very little to prevent transmission within the country.

But he said if the aim is to prevent new and potentially dangerous variants from entering the UK, to be effective it would require negative PCR tests before travel from anywhere abroad, for all travellers, including UK residents. Return united.

“Variants spread across borders and can emerge anywhere. Simply adding requirements for China is not effective and seems like a performance restriction to me,” she wrote.

Professor Pagel is a member of Independent Sage, a group of scientists who work together to advise the UK government, but he commented in a personal capacity.

He added: “SARS-CoV-2 infecting a significant proportion of a 1 billion strong population in a short space of time offers great potential for the emergence of mutations and new variants, and it seems prudent to keep a close eye on the new mutations.

“If China won’t share its sequence data, then I can see an opportunity to test arrivals from China at UK airports, but this may be a random under-sample and should be at our expense.”

How many flights come from China?

Six non-stop flights with 1,795 seats are planned to the UK from China next week with Air China, China Southern Airlines, Hainan Airlines, Beijing Capital Airlines and China Eastern Airlines, according to aviation analyst firm Cirium.

Flights will arrive from Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Qingdao.

Moreover, The independent has identified two daily flights to London Heathrow from Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific and a third on British Airways.

Remind me of Covid testing for UK travel?

Throughout 2020, UK ministers dismissed pre-trip testing as unnecessary. But in 2021, after an unprecedented 19-week ban came into effect, the government made testing mandatory for all arrivals.

Up until 18 March 2022, the UK had some of the most onerous travel restrictions of any major European country. Unvaccinated travelers were required to undergo a pre-departure test and a post-arrival PCR.

When they were lifted in March, then Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps said, “You can travel just like the good old days.”

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