Germany, Sweden and Belgium impose restrictions on passengers from China

Several other countries, including Poland and Bulgaria, say they have no plans to impose testing rules

Germany, Sweden and Belgium are imposing new Covid testing requirements on passengers travelling from China after the EU recommended the step to cope with a surge in cases.

German health minister Karl Lauterbach confirmed on Thursday that Berlin would update its travel rules so that arrivals from China would need “at least one test when entering the country”.

“There will then be random checks on entry to detect virus variants,” Mr Lauterbach said in an emailed statement. Waste-water tests would also be increased, he said.

Sweden’s testing rules kick in on Saturday, while Belgian health minister Frank Vandenbroucke also said testing requirements would apply to direct flights from China, the Belga news agency reported. France, Italy and Spain have already imposed similar measures.


Several other countries – including Poland, which has a direct flight to China, and Bulgaria – said they had no plans to impose testing rules.

“We do not currently see a threat of increased transmission of Covid-19 via flights from China,” said Wojciech Andrusiewicz, a spokesman for Poland’s health ministry. “There is no mutation in China that would have been a threat to us at the moment. We are constantly monitoring the situation, and if a response is needed it will follow.”

The EU on Wednesday “strongly encouraged” countries to adopt pre-departure Covid testing, recommended masking on flights and urged waste-water checks as a response to the rampant Covid outbreak in China. However, it stopped short of mandating any new rules.

“The member states agree 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,” according to a statement from Sweden, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU.

EU member states agreed to review the situation in mid-January.

China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman warned this week that the country would hit back at nations that placed Covid restrictions on its travellers for “political goals”.

China has been loosening its strict zero Covid strategy after nearly three years – one that made entering the Asian nation very difficult because it required all arrivals to isolate for days in hotels or camps. Beijing still requires incoming travellers to test for Covid before boarding flights for China.

The new advice from the EU goes beyond the recommendations from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, which said last week that screening rules and travel restrictions were not justified. “A surge in cases in China is not expected to impact the Covid-19 epidemiological situation in Europe,” it said.

Airlines are strongly opposed to new restrictive measures that might cut into passengers’ ability to travel freely. The International Air Transport Association, the airline industry’s global lobby group, said travel restrictions had been shown to delay the peak of new waves of coronavirus by only a few days, rather than halting them, while at the same time strangling international connectivity, damaging economies and destroying jobs. – Bloomberg