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Member states of the European Union have been urged to introduce obligatory COVID-19 testing  for all passengers departing from China. So far the response from EU countries has varied, with some – including Spain – already introducing testing while others are still monitoring the situation. 

Outside the EU, the UK is also requiring people flying from mainland China to England to take a pre-departure test. (There are no direct flights from China to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.)

The EU presidency (held by Sweden since the start of the year) released a statement this week on the coordination of COVID-19 travel measures. The statement noted that member states, in the presence of Schengen associated countries, had met in the framework of the Integrated Political Crisis Response (IPCR) to discuss the epidemiological situation in the EU/EEA and developments in China.

The member states agreed on a coordinated precautionary approach, “especially considering the need for sufficient, reliable data and the easing of travel restrictions by China starting on 8 January 2023”, along the following lines:

The member states agreed to recommend that all passengers on flights to and from China wear a medical mask, or FFP2/N95/KN95 respirators.
They agreed to issue advice to incoming and outgoing international travellers coming from or destined for China, as well as to aircraft and airport personnel, regarding personal hygiene and health measures.
They “strongly encouraged” member states to introduce, for all passengers departing from China, the requirement for a negative COVID-19 test taken not more than 48 hours prior to departure.

The member states were encouraged to complement these measures with:

Random testing of passengers arriving from China on arrival in member states, as appropriate, and the sequencing of all positive results to strengthen surveillance of the epidemiological situation.
Testing and sequencing of wastewater from airports with international flights and aircraft arriving from China.
Continuing to promote vaccine sharing and the uptake of vaccines, including booster doses, particularly among vulnerable groups.

The IPCR will continue to monitor the epidemiological situation in the EU and developments in China, including the level of data shared, “with a view to ensuring EU coordination of any measures considered necessary”. Finally, the member states agreed to assess the situation and review the introduced measures by mid-January 2023.

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Previously, Spain was one of the first countries in the world to introduce compulsory COVID-19 tests for travellers from China.

All passengers arriving in Spain by air from the People’s Republic of China must undergo a health control at the first point of entry that will include, at least, a temperature control, documentary check and visual check on their condition.

Documentary control includes the requirement to present an EU Digital COVID Certificate or equivalent. Passengers who do not have this certificate must present a certificate of SARSCoV2 diagnostic test with a negative result. 

In addition to these requirements, all passengers arriving in Spain from the People’s Republic of China may be subjected to a diagnostic test for active infection at the point of entry and, if necessary, a medical assessment on epidemiological and clinical aspects of the passenger.

Children under 12 years of age and passengers who arrive in Spain in transit to other countries are exempt from these requirements, provided they do not leave the airport environment.

The UK government announced a series of “precautionary and temporary measures to further improve the UK’s ability to detect potential new variants of COVID from China, following an increase in cases there and the easing of their border measures next week”.

Passengers arriving from China to England (effective from yesterday, 5 January) now need to show a negative COVID-19 pre-departure test (PDT) taken no more than two days prior to departure. “Although there are no direct flights from China to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, we are working with devolved nations to ensure this is implemented UK-wide as soon as possible.

“The decision has been taken to introduce these measures specifically for China arrivals due to a lack of comprehensive health information shared by China. The situation remains under review and the UK is working with China on next steps. If there are improvements in information sharing and greater transparency then temporary measures will be reviewed.”

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