EU member states decide to recommend pre-flight COVID-19 testing of arrivals from China

  • 2023-01-05
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN –  At a sitting of the Integrated Political Crisis Response (IPCR) mechanism of the European Union on Wednesday, member states decided to recommend pre-flight testing of passengers arriving from China for coronavirus.

Similarly to Europe, Estonia is focusing on monitoring and sequencing virus strains in order to catch dangerous new substrains early. Vaccination against both influenza and coronavirus is still appropriate to avoid overburdening national healthcare.

The IPCR on Wednesday adopted preventive steps, taking into account the easing of China's coronavirus travel restrictions from Jan. 8. This was done because there is not enough and reliable information about the epidemiological situation and the state of the healthcare system in China.

According to the joint conclusions and recommendations adopted by the member states, it is recommended that passengers wear a medical or FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask when traveling to and from China. Additional personal hygiene and health safety advice will be provided to staff and passengers on international flights involving China.

It is strongly encouraged to introduce a requirement for all travelers from China to member states to present a negative pre-flight coronavirus test result, taken no earlier than 48 hours before departure from China.

These measures are supported by monitoring and sequencing of virus strains in member states. These include random testing of travelers arriving from China for the coronavirus. Samples that test positive are sequenced to determine the virus strain. Monitoring and sequencing of wastewater will be carried out both from the wastewater of aircraft arriving from China and at international airports.

Deputy secretary general at the Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs for health policy Heidi Alasepp said that, on the Estonian side, the coordination and performance of monitoring and sequencing of virus strains is carried out by the Health Board. The Health Board will start sequencing wastewater this week in cooperation with the University of Tartu. This week's results will be announced in the new week.

"Member states agreed that risk groups, especially those aged 60+, should definitely get booster doses. I recommend it to anyone for whom more than six months have passed since their last vaccination or recovery. Also, especially risk groups should get vaccinated against the flu," Alasepp said.

Europe has learned to act quickly with the experience from previous crises. The decision made on Wednesday is based on the recommendations of the European Commission and the proposals of the European Health Security Committee, which includes the member states. The requirements must be implemented by each member state on the basis of its national law according to country-specific differences.

In mid-January, the European Union member states will assess the situation and re-examine the established measures.