The countries of the European Union will try to build a coordinated approach inbound airline passengers from China as the world’s most populous country is hit by a wave of COVID-19 infections and as several EU member states have announced individual efforts over the past week.

China’s abrupt turnaround in COVID controls early December and its accuracy official COVID data has come under scrutiny at home and abroad, which prompted a number of countries to impose travel restrictions on travelers from China for fear of the introduction of new variants.

Some international health experts have more than predicted that a million deaths are possible as the virus is now spreading unchecked since Beijing dropped its strict “zero-COVID” policy last month.

Sweden, which holds the rotating EU presidency, said member state officials will hold an integrated political crisis response meeting on Wednesday to see if bloc-wide entry requirements are necessary for visitors from China.

“It is important that we take the necessary measures quickly,” Swedish Health Minister Jakob Forssmed said on Monday.

Belgium said late Monday it would monitor wastewater from planes arriving from China to see if tests would provide new clues about any potentially dangerous variants among inbound passengers. It added that it would urge visitors from China who feel unwell to take a COVID test.

Belgian Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke said more needs to be done, but only in a coordinated approach by the EU’s 27 member states.

“It would be a good signal to China if all EU countries together said: ‘If you come to Europe, you must first get tested’,” he told VRT.

France, Spain and Italy have already independently announced that they will implement stricter COVID measures for passengers from China.

The French government is demanding negative testsurges French citizens to avoid non-essential travel to China and reintroduces mask requirements on flights from China to France.

The Spanish government said it would require all air passengers arriving from China to have negative tests or proof of vaccination.

Italy was the first EU member to demand COVID testing for air passengers coming from China, but several others say such measures may not be the best way to protect locals, as variants now coming from China already exist in Europe , often for months.

The United States last week announced new COVID testing requirements for all travelers from China, in addition to some Asian countries that had imposed restrictions due to a spate of infections.

Chinese state media criticize Europe’s ‘political logic’

The World Health Organization on Friday urged Chinese health officials to regularly provide specific and real-time information about the COVID situationincluding hospitalizations, deaths and vaccinations.

It invited Chinese scientists to present detailed data on viral sequencing at a technical advisory group meeting scheduled for Tuesday.

China reported three new COVID deaths for Monday, up from one on Sunday. The official death toll since the start of the pandemic now stands at 5,253.

China has dismissed criticism of its COVID data, saying that while new mutations may be more contagious, they are less harmful.

“According to the political logic of some people in Europe and the United States, it is equally wrong to do whether China opens or not,” the state-run CCTV said in a commentary late Monday.

In an article on Tuesday, People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s official newspaper, cited several Chinese experts as saying the illness caused by the virus was relatively mild for most people.

“Severe and critical illnesses account for 3% to 4% of infected patients currently admitted to designated hospitals in Beijing,” Tong Zhaohui, vice president of Beijing Chaoyang Hospital, told the paper.

Despite the cheerful tone of China’s state media, others warned that the worst is yet to come.

“China is entering the most dangerous weeks of the pandemic,” Capital Economics analysts warned.

“Authorities are now making almost no effort to slow the spread of infections and with the pre-Lunar New Year migration getting under way, all parts of the country not currently in a major COVID wave will soon be,” they said.



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