On 10 January, EU countries reached an agreement on implementing new COVID-19 measures in aviation for travellers arriving from China, in response to the country’s enormous wave of COVID infections, with a suggestion that this move could potentially be applied to “other regions in similar epidemiological situations.”
According to the joint announcement published by EASA and ECDC, in the current situation, the guidelines are directed at all incoming passengers to the EU from China, aiming to limit virus transmission during air travel as well as focus on the early detection of emerging new variants.
These latest measures will be implemented with immediate effect for passengers on direct and indirect flights arriving from China, including pre-departure negative COVID testing; onboard medical face mask wearing; enhanced aircraft cleaning; crew member vaccination status assignment; random PCR testing and sequencing upon arrival, and flight wastewater monitoring.
After the news was reported in China, a heated discussion broke out on Weibo, China’s biggest microblogging site, with the relevant topic drawing in over 130 million views and the figure is still growing.
Varying comments can be observed online with some netizens expressing strong criticism over this decision, suggesting it was obvious prejudicial treatment towards China, while others displayed anger on the self-imposed nationwide isolation over the past 3 years.
Prior to the EU-unified approach in aviation, many countries had tightened rules on air passengers from China in the last week, including the United States, Australia, Japan, South Korea India, to name a few, amid concerns over China’s lack of transparency around the scope of the COVID outbreak and worries of new variants.
Regarding this matter, China halted visa issuance for visitors from Japan and South Korea on 10 January. During a press conference in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin stated that this was “a reciprocal measure in response to the discriminatory entry restriction targeting China.”
After China’s recent decision to lift the several year-long isolation and reopen its borders, the nation’s daily infection cases have been hitting record-highs daily and has not yet reached its peak. The country’s worsening epidemic outlook currently looks bleak but is expected to be temporary as many countries in the world went through the same phase.
While the tightened COVID measures will more or less affect the tourism industry and business development with European countries, Chinese travellers may turn to other regions with looser entry rules for vacation and investment.