France urges all EU countries to test Chinese travellers for COVID

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By Euronews  with Reuters, AFP
Passengers on a flight from China get COVID documents checked at after arriving at the Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle airport, Sunday 1 January 2023
Passengers on a flight from China get COVID documents checked at after arriving at the Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle airport, Sunday 1 January 2023   -  Copyright  AFP

France is urging all European Union countries to start testing passengers arriving from China for COVID, amid an outbreak sweeping the Asian nation. 

So far the only EU countries to require testing are France, Italy and Spain -- plus the United Kingdom outside the bloc -- with EU officials failing to agree a common position at a meeting in Brussels before Christmas. 

More EU talks will take place this week. 

From Sunday, France is requiring that travellers from China provide a negative COVID-19 test result less than 48 hours before departure and will randomly test those arriving.

"France will push for this methodology to be applied across the EU," Health Minister François Braun said as he and Transport Minister Clement Beaune checked on the new procedures at Paris' Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport on Sunday.

Asked about the fact that a Chinese traveller with COVID could for the time being land in another EU country and then travel unchecked to France, Beaune said: "This is why we must coordinate (across the EU), to be more efficient."

Braun pointed out that the controls on arrival for passengers would not prevent people from entering France, but described it as "a more scientific control, which will allow us to follow the different variants extremely precisely." 

The new measures will remain in place in France until 31 January, with six flights coming from mainland China each week, and up to ten if flights from Hong Kong are also counted. 

Most passengers from China only pass through the Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle airport hub.

Among the 300 passengers on the Beijing-Paris flight who landed on Sunday, around sixty entered French territory. All agreed to take a quick PCR test before going to collect their luggage.

Before being tested, the identity of travelers is taken by the agents at the terminal screening center. If any test comes back positive, the passengers must self-isolate for seven days. 

Three years after the appearance of the first cases of coronavirus in the central city of Wuhan, China put an end to its draconian policy known as “zero COVID” on 7 December.

Since the lifting of restrictions, Chinese hospitals have been overwhelmed by a surge of patients, most of them elderly, and vulnerable because of poor vaccination protocols.