Restrictions against China ‘scientifically unjustified’, insists ACI Europe

By Luke Barras-hill |

ACI Europe has expressed regret over the action taken by some states to unilaterally introduce health-related requirements on travellers from China. The country will resume outbound travel from 8 January. Source: Shutterstock.

ACI Europe has criticised what it views as regressive measures planned by a number of states to impose pre-departure or on-arrival Covid-19 testing of travellers from China.

EU states such as Italy, France and Spain together with the likes of the US, Japan, India – and now England – have announced tightened controls following Beijing’s decision to axe its zero-Covid policy and foster an ‘orderly’ return to overseas travel from 8 January.

‘These unilateral actions are at odds with all the experience and evidence gained over the past three years,’ said ACI in a statement, adding that testing or other restrictions on arrivals from China ‘is neither scientifically justified nor risk based’.

The comments echo those made by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control on Thursday (29 December), which argued that obligatory testing measures by several countries were ‘unjustified’ for the bloc.

Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI Europe, said: “We are once again plunging back into a patchwork of unjustified and uncoordinated travel restrictions, which have no basis in scientific fact.

“Clearly we still have to learn the painful lessons of the past years. These travel restrictions do not work and current arrangements for EU coordination have failed once again.”

WHO meets with Chinese officials

In a statement via Twitter on 29 December, World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the reaction from countries was ‘understandable’ given ‘the absence of comprehensive information from China’ and that the organisation ‘remained concerned’ about the developing situation.

China’s National Health Commission recently stopped publishing daily Covid-19 data.

Following the relaxation of  its zero-Covid policy, questions have been raised about the efficacy of officially reported figures amid an uptick in infections.

Beijing insists it is open and transparent with information sharing on Covid-19 deaths and severe cases.

Olivier Jankovec, Director General, ACI Europe: “We are once again plunging back into a patchwork of unjustified and uncoordinated travel restrictions, which have no basis in scientific fact.”

During a press conference in recent days, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin hit out at ‘smearing’ attempts by sections of the Western media.

He maintained that the Covid-19 prevention responses of countries should be ‘scientific’ and ‘appropriate’ and while China’s measures have been adjusted in response to the situation, protecting the lives of its people has not changed.

A meeting took place between the WHO and Chinese officials yesterday (30 December) to discuss the recent rise in Covid-19 cases.

Members of China’s National Health Commission and the National Disease Control and Prevention Administration briefed WHO on China’s evolving strategy and actions concerning epidemiology, monitoring of variants, vaccination, clinical care, communication and R&D.

The WHO stressed the importance of monitoring and a timely approach to publishing data to assist China and global communities perform risk assessments to shape necessary responses.

“WHO called on China to strengthen viral sequencing, clinical management and impact assessment, and expressed willingness to provide support on these areas, as well as on risk communications on vaccination to counter hesitancy,” read a WHO statement.

“Chinese scientists are invited to engage more closely in WHO-led Covid-19 expert networks including the Covid-19 clinical management network. WHO has invited Chinese scientists to present detailed data on viral sequencing at a meeting of the Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution on 3 January.”

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